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Sweden, Russia Spar Over Possible Move To Join NATO

Sweden's foreign ministry summoned Russia's ambassador on September 11 after Moscow threatened retaliatory measures if the Scandinavian country joined NATO.

"We are an independent state and we make our own security policy decisions independently... We do not accept threats and I have summoned the Russian ambassador [Viktor Tatarintsev] to ask questions and get an explanation," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told journalists in Stockholm.

She was reacting to comments by Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who said Moscow would take "retaliatory measures" if Sweden were to join NATO.

"Swedish membership in NATO would have politico-military and foreign policy consequences, and would require retaliatory measures from Russia," Zakharova said during a briefing September 10.

"Defense and national security strategy is up to each sovereign state to decide. However, we still consider Sweden's policy of non-participation in military blocs to be an important factor for the stability of northern Europe," she said.

Swedish public opinion has long been opposed to NATO membership, but recent polls have shown an increase in support amid concerns over Russia's military resurgence.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS