Ottawa condemns Russian embassy calling Finland ‘nuclear target’ after joining NATO | CBC News

The federal government is condemning a tweet from Russia’s Canadian embassy that called new NATO member Finland a “nuclear target.”

The Scandinavian country officially joined the military alliance on Tuesday, a move triggered by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The tweet, from the Russian embassy’s official account, accused outgoing Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin of abandoning the country’s long-standing policy of non-alignment.

“[Marin] succeeded in converting neutral Finland that enjoyed good relationship (sic) with all countries including Russia into another potential nuclear target,” the tweet reads. Marin’s party was defeated in Finland’s recent parliamentary elections.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly denounced the tweet.

“The Russian regime’s nuclear rhetoric is reckless. We will never hesitate to call out their dangerous propaganda,” the spokesperson said in an email to CBC.

The embassy’s statement falls in line with Moscow’s increasing use of nuclear rhetoric, which NATO recently condemned as “dangerous and irresponsible.”

Asked if the statement could lead to Canada expelling Russia’s diplomats, Joly’s office said they wish to keep Canadian diplomatic staff in Moscow.

“They continue to provide consular services, and their presence in Russia is squarely in Canadians’ interests. This requires the Russian Embassy to remain open on a reciprocal basis,” Joly’s spokesperson said.

NATO’s flag, centre, and Finland’s flag flutter over the Foreign Ministry building in Helsinki, Finland on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (Antti H’m’l’inen/Lehtikuva/The Associated Press)

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre border with Russia, so its entry more than doubles the size of NATO’s border with Russia. The nation adopted neutrality after its defeat by the Soviets in the Second World War, but its leaders signalled they wanted to join the alliance just months after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-on invasion of Ukraine.

“The era of nonalignment in our history has come to an end — a new era begins,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said before his country’s blue-and-white flag was raised outside NATO headquarters. A short distance away, outside the security fence, a few dozen people wrapped in flags of their own chanted, “Ukraine needs NATO.”

Neighbouring Sweden has also applied to join the alliance, but its accession process may take a few months longer. Turkey and Hungary have each raised issues they have with Sweden they want addressed before ratification can take place.

Joly hailed Finland’s entry to NATO on Tuesday in a statement.

“Today, as Finland’s flag will fly over NATO headquarters for the first time, we stand more united than ever,” she said. “Canada was proud to be the first country to ratify Finland’s accession, and we worked with Finland and our NATO partners to maintain momentum throughout the ratification process.

“With Finland, and soon to be with Sweden, we are stronger than ever and ready to stand together in the face of some of the most important challenges to our collective security in decades.”

The move is a strategic and political blow to Putin, who has long complained about NATO’s expansion toward Russia.

Russia has warned that it would bolster defences along its border with NATO if the alliance deploys any additional troops or equipment to its new member.

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