"We don't have problems with Sweden and Finland as we do with Ukraine," President Vladimir Putin says but warns Moscow will respond if NATO sets up infrastructure in these countries.

Putin is making his first known trip abroad since the start of what Moscow calls a
Putin is making his first known trip abroad since the start of what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine. (Reuters)

Russia has "no problem" if Finland and Sweden join NATO, President Vladimir Putin has said but warned Moscow would respond in kind if NATO sets up infrastructure in the Nordic countries. 

"We don't have problems with Sweden and Finland as we do with Ukraine," Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat on Wednesday. 

"If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That's up to them. They can join whatever they want." 

But Putin said that Moscow would respond in kind if NATO sets up infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the US-led defence alliance.

"They must understand there was no threat before, while now if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in kind and create the same threats for the territories from which threats towards us are created."

READ MORE: Finland, Sweden get official invite to join NATO after Türkiye's consent

Ties could sour 

He said it was inevitable that Moscow's relations with Helsinki and Stockholm would sour over their NATO membership.

"Everything was fine between us, but now there might be some tensions, there certainly will," he said. "It's inevitable if there is a threat to us."

Putin's comment came a day after NATO ally Türkiye gave its consent to Finland and Sweden's bid to join the alliance. 

Putin is making his first known trip abroad since the start of what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine. 

He met Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during his visit.

READ MORE: NATO describes Russia as a 'direct threat' to allies' sovereignty

Putin condemns NATO's 'imperial ambitions' 

Putin also condemned what he said are NATO's "imperial ambitions", accusing the alliance of seeking to assert its "supremacy" through the Ukraine conflict.

"Ukraine and the wellbeing of Ukrainian people is not the aim of the collective West and NATO but a means to defend their own interests," Putin told journalists in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat. 

"The NATO countries' leaders wish to ... assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions," he added.

READ MORE: NATO to massively increase number of forces at high readiness

Source: Reuters