Russian officials have repeatedly treated NATO expansion near or at its borders as encroachment, rather than a desire by their smaller neighbors to deter Russian military incursion as sustained by Ukraine in 2014. Currently only Montenegro is on the list of countries to be inducted into NATO, as Sweden and neighbor Finland opt to stay non-aligned. Currently, three Baltic states and Poland are members of NATO on Russia's borders.
Last year Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Stockholm that Russia would take a military response to potential Swedish entry into NATO and on Thursday Putin elaborated on the extent of such a response.
“This does not quite mean that we will become hysterical and we will aim our nuclear missiles at Sweden,” Putin said. “But we will be obliged to undertake something because we see this as an additional threat to Russia.”
The Russian leader said “only a sick person” would imagine Russia attacking Sweden but noted that NATO membership would add “simply nil” in the way of defense capability improvements to Sweden.
Sweden and Finland have retained a partnership with NATO but have not sought membership, though speculation about them joining has mounted since Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday during a panel at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that the US investigations into whether the Kremlin meddled in the US election are nothing more than "hysteria," and that the anti-Russia sentiment in the US was about as virulent as anti-semitism. “It’s like saying everything is the Jews’ fault,” said Putin, who said the blame for Hillary Clinton’s November loss lies squarely at the feet of the Democratic presidential candidate and members of her party, according to a report.