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Putin: If Finland Joins NATO, Russia Will Have To Respond; Russian, Finnish Leaders Talk of Dialogue, Trust

July 1, 2016 (EIRNS)—The decision whether or not to join NATO is Finland’s choice, Russian President Vladimir Putin said today after meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, in Nanntali, Finland, but if Finland does join, Russia must respond.

"Do you think we will continue to act in the same manner [if Finland joins NATO]? We have withdrawn our troops to a distance of 1,500 kilometers ]from the border]. Do you think they will stay there?"

Putin said, reported TASS. "Anyway, we will respect any choice of the Finnish people," he said.

"It’s up to the Finnish people to decide how to defend their independence and ensure their safety. Of course, we value Finland’s neutral status and respect it, but it is not up to us to address this issue."

Putin reported that Niinisto

"came up with proposals today at least on the first steps aimed at enhancing confidence and preventing conflicts. I have already said that I agree with this. We will try to begin the dialogue with NATO at the summit in Brussels."

According to the Finnish YLE broadcaster, one of those proposals is that all aircraft operating over the Baltic Sea should have their transponders turned on so that their flights can be monitored.

"We are well aware that there is a feeling of fear of Russia in the Baltic countries. On the other hand, NATO is seen as a great threat in Russia. For this kind of spiral not to continue, the key word is trust,"

he said. Putin said that he agreed with that proposal and would be issuing instructions to put it on the agenda for the next NATO-Russia Council meeting, which may be held in Brussels sometime after the NATO Warsaw summit.

Putin also noted that NATO keeps moving troops closer to Russia, but calls the movements of Russian troops on Russian soil aggressive. "We believe this is absolutely unfair and does not correspond to reality," he said.

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