NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said during the Security Beyond Defense Forum in Warsaw, Censor.NET reports referring to Atlantic Council.
"We fully respect Finland and Sweden's freedom to choose whether they want to pursue membership or not. We're not out to recruit new members. But if they choose to apply, they're entitled to do that, and Russia doesn't have any right to veto that decision. And it's disappointing that these sorts of threats seem to have been made during the recent visit by Putin to Finland," Vershbow said.
He also noted there could be very valuable support to the defense of the Baltic region working with Finland and Sweden as partners.
"We have trained and worked together with Finland and Sweden as partners for a long time. They participated in a lot of our exercises focused on challenges in the Baltic region. And I think it's not an accident that we're inviting them to the summit because more and more, as we look at the challenges in northern Europe," Vershbow remarked.
During his recent visit to Helsinki, Putin said that Russia will respond to Finland's accession to NATO by deploying its troops even closer to the Finnish border.
Previously, President of Finland Sauli Niinistö said Finland will apply for NATO membership in the event of a serious deterioration in security situation.