The Russian ambassador to Sweden has claimed that Moscow would take “countermeasures” should Sweden join the military alliance.

Viktor Tatarinstev made the threat during an interview with Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. He said that there would be “consequences” if Sweden became the latest nation to join NATO, writes Zachary Davis Boren for The Independent.

Potential NATO membership provokes opposition from Russia

Tatarinstev claimed that “Sweden is not a target for our armed troops,” despite what he called an “aggressive propaganda campaign” in the Swedish media.

The Swedish public has increasingly displayed support for the country to join NATO, and Tatarinstev warned “if it happens, there will be counter measures.”

“Putin pointed out that there will be consequences, that Russia will have to resort to a response of the military kind and re-orientate our troops and missiles,” he said. “The country that joins Nato needs to be aware of the risks it is exposing itself to.”

Swedish public looks to NATO as relations with Russia worsen

Recent opinion polls reveal that 31% of Swedes are in favor of joining NATO compared to just 17% in 2012. However Russia remains confident that Sweden will not ultimately join the US-led military alliance.

“I don’t think it will become relevant in the near future,” said Tatarinstev. He attributed worsening relations between the two nations to a Swedish media campaign in which “Russia is often described as an attacker who only thinks of conducting wars and threatening others”.

A number of reports surfaced last year which pointed to an increased Russian presence in the Baltic Sea. In one incident, a foreign submarine was spotted in Swedish waters, and suspicion fell on Moscow.

The presence of a foreign submarine has prompted plans for a series of upgrades to the Swedish Navy in order to improve its ability to detect submarine activity, according to Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist.

Russia Threatens War If Sweden Joins NATO

Russia – Risky behavior by Russian warplanes

Additionally Russian warplanes have been behaving increasingly aggressively towards their Swedish counterparts, and fighter-bombers were seen in Swedish airspace last year.

That incident was described by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt as “the most serious aerial incursion by the Russians” in nearly ten years.

Earlier this month Supreme Commander Sverker Goransson of the Swedish Air Force told a seminar that Russian aircraft are not abiding by normal rules of conduct between military planes.

Goransson accused Russian planes of breaking formation, flying too close to Swedish planes and firing decoy flares at Swedish aircraft. He believes that such actions are “sanctioned at the highest level. Otherwise they wouldn’t act this way.”

Russia – Militarization of Europe continues

NATO is increasingly worried by the aggressive behavior of Russian aircraft and naval vessels. The Navy is one area that Russia is upgrading, with two new warship designs revealed in May. The “Shtorm” multipurpose heavy aircraft carrier and the “Shval” destroyer are part of a modernization program which will also see Russia build its own amphibious assault ships after a deal with France fell through.

Vladimir Putin recently announced that Russia will spend $400 billion by 2020 in order to modernize its armed forces. As well as the new ships, Moscow has developed a state of the art tank known as the Armata, and plans to upgrade missile and other heavy weapons technology.

Tensions between NATO and Russia have reached lows not seen since the end of the Cold War, and both sides are to blame. Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior does nothing to discourage NATO from enlisting new members in Eastern Europe, eroding the buffer zone which Moscow claims was part of an initial agreement.

As NATO forces encroach on areas close to Russia, Moscow is becoming increasingly aggressive in both its rhetoric and its military activity. NATO has responded by carrying out large military drills close to Russian borders, a move which has done nothing to calm the situation.

Western politicians have attempted to isolate Russia on the international stage through a series of economic sanctions, but the accession of India and Pakistan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, led by Russia and China, provides evidence that Russia does not stand alone. Russia’s membership of the SCO and the BRICS grouping goes to show that Moscow still has some influence internationally.

Putin’s wish to drive greater cooperation with China should also be a worry for the West, and there is a distinct possibility that the two nations pursue strategic alliances which could constitute a new threat to U.S. global hegemony. Western sanctions may only succeed in pushing Russia away from Europe and into the arms of China and other Asian partners.