10:32 Jul. 2, 2016
Putin: NATO perhaps would gladly fight Russia until last Finnish soldier. But it's your call.
President Vladimir Putin suggested on Friday Russia could move its troops closer to the Finnish-Russian border if Finland joins NATO and called for measures to improve conflict prevention over the Baltic.
Read also: Russia threatens Sweden over NATO membership
"Do you think we will keep it as it is: our troops at 1,500 (kilometers) away?", Putin said after meeting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Reuters reported.
Russian President claimed Finnish armed forces would "cease being sovereign", if Helsinki joined the Alliance. He said they "would become part of NATO's military infrastructure, which overnight would be at the borders of the Russian Federation".
"NATO perhaps would gladly fight with Russia until the last Finnish soldier. Do you guys need it? We don't. We don't want it. But it is your call", Putin said.
Putin's first visit to Finland since the Ukraine crisis erupted in 2014 comes amid increased Russian and NATO activity in the Baltic region, and with the militarily neutral Finland and neighboring Sweden increasing their co-operation with NATO. It also comes a week before a NATO summit in Warsaw.