MOSCOW, June 1. /TASS/. Moscow will assess the specific security challenges arising since Finland acceded to NATO, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said on Thursday, speaking at a plenary session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
"At this stage, we are proceeding on the basis that Finland’s accession to NATO was an openly unfriendly step toward Russia. At the same time, however, at this stage we also must assess the specific challenges to the security of the Russian Federation that will stem from the accession of Finland to NATO," he said.
"In the context of such a comprehensive assessment of these challenges, we will make a decision on the fate of, or regarding our further attitude toward, the agreement on the Saimaa Canal [an inland waterway connecting northwestern Russia to southern Finland - TASS]," the senior diplomat added.
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022, but their bids were initially blocked by Turkey, which demanded that the Nordic countries declare certain Kurdish organizations as terrorist groups as well as extradite individuals accused of terrorism or having been implicated in the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, as well as with then-Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andresson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Madrid on June 28, 2022, ahead of the annual NATO summit. The talks yielded a roadmap for Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO. On March 31, the Turkish parliament ratified Finland’s accession to the bloc, after which the Nordic country formally joined NATO on April 4.
Moscow has cooperated with Helsinki on matters pertaining to the Saimaa Canal since 1962. The inland waterway connects Finland’s Lake Saimaa with the Gulf of Finland near Vyborg, Russia. Since then, Finland has leased the Russian section of the canal. In 2012, a new agreement took effect, which extended the lease for a 50-year term.