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Russian FM on weapon allocation and response to NATO memberships

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaks in a panel at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Antalya, Turkey, Friday, March 1, 2024   -  
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Khalil Hamra/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that additional weapons will be deployed in Russian regions to match the threats that "may appear on the territory of Finland and Sweden" following their accession into NATO.

"The conclusion that we will draw for our security is that we have already made an organizational decision," Lavrov said on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey.

"Additional weapons will be located, stationed, deployed there, which will be adequate to the threats that may appear on the territory of Finland and Sweden," he concluded.

Hungary's parliament on Monday approved Sweden's bid to join NATO, removing the final hurdle for the Scandinavian country to become the trans-Atlantic military alliance's 32nd member.

Sweden's accession means the North Atlantic Treaty Organization members will enclose nearly all of the strategically important Baltic Sea, which borders Russia and is expected to enhance the alliance's deterrence against Moscow, military experts say.

While Finland joined NATO in April last year, Sweden needed to wait for approval by Hungary, the only alliance member that had not given the greenlight amid tensions stemming from Stockholm's criticism over Budapest's democracy.

Lavrov also commented on the prospect of military engagement with NATO after several prominent Western figures made comments regarding Ukraine and troop deployment.

"The latest statements by both (French President Emmanuel) Macron and (U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd) Austin and the conversation of German generals still indicate that the party of war does not want to change its course towards inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia on the battlefield. We understand this," Lavrov said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remarked during a congressional hearing on Thursday that, he believed, NATO could be in "a fight with Russia" if "Ukraine falls."

French President Emmanuel Macron appeared isolated on the European stage this week after saying the possibility of Western troops being sent to Ukraine could not be ruled out, a comment that prompted an outcry from other leaders.

French officials later sought to clarify Macron's remarks and tamp down the backlash, while insisting on the need to send a clear signal to Russia that it cannot win in Ukraine.

The Kremlin warned that if NATO sends combat troops, a direct conflict between the alliance and Russia would be inevitable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said such a move would risk a global nuclear conflict.

European military heavyweights Germany and Poland affirmed Tuesday that they would not be sending troops to Ukraine, after reports that some Western countries may be considering doing so as the war with Russia enters its third year.

The head of NATO also said the U.S.-led military alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine, after other central European leaders confirmed that they too would not be providing soldiers.

The idea of sending troops has been taboo, particularly as NATO seeks to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia.

Nothing prevents NATO members from joining such an undertaking individually or in groups, but the organization itself would only get involved if all 31 members agree.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made clear Monday that he remains reluctant to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine, pointing to a risk of his country becoming directly involved in the war.

Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States and is further stepping up its support this year.

But Scholz has stalled for months on Ukraine’s desire for Taurus missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) and could in theory be used against targets far into Russian territory.