Finland hails 'historic day' as it seeks to join Nato
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the decision of Finland and Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a problem for the Kremlin. Both nations have declared that they will be making an application for membership status, signalling a stark shift from their long-held wartime stance of neutrality.
On Sunday, Finland formally announced it would apply to join NATO after its President Sauli Niinisto urged the Finnish Government to back plans “without delay”.
The news was shortly followed by a similar development in Sweden where the governing Social Democrats said they backed joining the military alliance, enabling the country to apply.
In retaliation, Moscow has warned that there could be no more talk of a “nuclear-free” Baltic.
But do either Finland or Sweden have any nuclear weapons of their own?
Neither of the two countries is thought to own any nuclear warheads.
Finland and Sweden are both signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
During the late 1940s and 1950s, Sweden had programs for both nuclear and chemical weapons.
But by the mid-1970s, all plans for weapons of mass destruction had been scrapped.
Sweden remained neutral in World War II and for more than two centuries has avoided joining military alliances.
Finland to this point has also stopped itself from joining NATO to avoid antagonising Russia – a country which it shares a 1,300km (810 mile) border with.
Though Sweden has said it will apply for NATO membership, its controlling party, the Social Democrats, are opposed to stationing nuclear weapons or hosting NATO bases.
In recent months the alliance has reinforced a number of its bases in member countries close to Russia to act as a deterrent against any further invasions.
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Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped Russia from threatening to move some of its own nuclear arsenal close to the borders of both Finland and Sweden.
The Russian exclave, Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, has been touted as a possible destination for Russia to host nuclear weapons.
Shortly after invading Ukraine last February, Mr Putin moved Russia’s deterrent forces to “special alert”.
The development raised anxieties in the West of an imminent nuclear incursion, but Russia’s President has yet to demonstrate a will to launch such a weapon.
How many nuclear weapons does Russia have?
All figures are estimates but according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Russia has the largest supply of nuclear weapons in the world.
Moscow owns approximately 4,447 warheads – the devices that trigger a nuclear explosion – of which 1,588 are deployed on ballistic missiles and heavy bomber bases.
A further 977 strategic warheads and 1,912 nonstrategic warheads are kept in reserve by the Kremlin.
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