Kremlin threatens nuclear measures if Sweden and Finland join NATO

Russia threatened to "strengthen" its forces on the border if Finland and Sweden join NATO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow, Feb. 7, 2019

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Thursday that nuclear weapons would be placed in the Baltic Sea region if Finland and Sweden join NATO.

Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council and a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Medvedev threatened to deploy the weapons after Finland and Sweden said they will decide whether to join NATO within the next several weeks.

"[I]f Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double," Medvedev wrote on Telegram, as translated. "Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened."

He threatened that Russia would seriously "strengthen the grouping of ground forces and air defense [and] deploy significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland."

Two new NATO members would make it "no longer be possible to talk about any non-nuclear status of the Baltic," he said, adding that "the balance must be restored."

If they join NATO, Russia would place "hypersonics and ships with nuclear weapons literally at arm's length" from the two countries, Medvedev said.

Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal with an estimated 6,000 nuclear warheads. 

CIA Director William Burns warned Thursday that "none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons," Reuters reported.