by UnHerd News
Thursday, 12
May 2022
Video
15:04

Russia declares Sweden and Finland “targets” if they join NATO

Freddie Sayers challenges a senior Kremlin spokesperson
by UnHerd News

Speaking to UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers, First Deputy Representative of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy has said that Sweden and Finland joining the bloc would turn them overnight from neutral into enemy countries and become a “target” for Russia.

“They know that the moment they become members of NATO it will imply certain mirror moves on the Russian side,” he said. “If there are NATO detachments in those territories, these territories would become a target — or a possible target — for a strike.”

“NATO is a very unfriendly bloc to us — it is an enemy and NATO itself admitted that Russia is an enemy. It means that Finland and Sweden all of a sudden, instead of neutral countries, become part of the enemy and they bear all the risks. So they would bear certain defence risks of course, certain economic costs — but it’s up to them to decide… They were living normally as good neighbours with us for tens of years; if they suddenly choose to become part of a very unfriendly bloc, it’s up to them.

The diplomat implied, however, that Russia was not especially concerned about the decision, and that it didn’t change the security situation in Europe.

“I don’t think it will really be a blow to the security of Russia that these two states become members of NATO — hopefully they won’t but if they do it would be the worst solution for them, but not for Russia. Russia is ready to face NATO threats, Russia has made the necessary precautions for this. It doesn’t change very much the security situation in Europe, which is dominated and aggravated by the NATO threat to Russia for many years.”

Elsewhere in the — at times heated — discussion, the diplomat repeated the insistence that there is no war in Ukraine, said that EU membership for Ukraine could no longer be part of any peace deal (which is a change from a month ago), and that he was “absolutely sure” Russia would use nuclear weapons if it faced an existential threat.

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Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
4 months ago

I understand Freddie’s statement at the end and would like to say that this interview was very worthwhile. There’s so much to comment on. Too much. Suffice it to say, I was fascinated to hear the modern version of USSR political-speak. Knowing Putin is former KGB, it makes sense. Thanks for interviewing him and letting him have the time to make his case.

Tim West
Tim West
4 months ago

Freddie was a disappointment to put it mildly. How was he not aware of all DP said already? It beggars belief that there are still some on this site not supporting the Russian operation 100%.

harry storm
harry storm
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim West

Of course you really meant to say not supporting Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s unprovoked agression. Otherwise you’d be supporting a megalomaniacal warmonger.

Robert G
Robert G
4 months ago

If you cannot handle encountering a viewpoint that disagrees with your own, then Unherd is probably not right for you. And while I think it’s clear that Freddie doesn’t buy any of the nonsense spewed by Polyanskiy, he is always probing of his subjects and challenges them to defend their positions. That level of journalistic skill and integrity is a major reason why I follow Unherd. And who in the mainstream media is giving Russian agents a platform to share their propaganda, let alone allowing it to go unchallenged?

On the merits of the substantive issue, I think it’s entirely reasonable to believe that Russia had legitimate security concerns about Ukraine. Even so, there is no way you can justify Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine or the barbarous manner in which they’ve prosecuted this war. Ukraine isn’t entirely without fault, but they’re not the ones invading a neighboring country and shelling and murdering civilians by the thousands.

And did you notice how Polanskiy was deliberately evasive — even coy — on the subject of nuclear escalation? It’s a transparent attempt to scare the west out of getting involved. The effort to hold the world hostage with threats of nuclear apocalypse is contemptible.

Last edited 4 months ago by Robert G
Konstantinos Stavropoulos
Konstantinos Stavropoulos
4 months ago

With all due respect for Freddie Sayers and the amazing work he is doing in Unherd I find this interview below expectation and rather giving in to herd mentality. I have empathy for the pressure F.S. might have felt by walking into this interview. Nevertheless he has proven he can do better.

I will try to present some points where Freddie Sayers may have not given us the best of himself.

1# I understood that the Russian diplomat emphasized on the Donbas issue as being the main reason for Russian attack on Ukraine. Freddie Sayers put this aside and chose to pressure on the nazi issue instead.

2# The diplomat repeatedly said that his English is not good. It would be fair to give him some “air” to breath instead of pushing him. Something that we are not used to see by F.S.

3# The diplomat also claimed that the West is not presenting this war objectively. F.S. did not really walk into this area. There is a lot that can be talked about how badly the west and particularly the USA has treated Ukraine into using Ukraine and its people to pressure Russia since the fall of USSR, all the way to the past decade and into this war. F.S. should naturally not be watering the Russian claims. Regrettably, he didn’t seem to let the Russian diplomat present his case either.

4# The super big issue of the escalation was let untouched by F.S. This should be more the case of an interview with a US diplomat indeed. Our friend Freddie though, acted as if there is not such an issue at all.

5# Likewise, F.S. seemed to have fallen in the “heroic” trap of a tale of the free world defending democracy, while leaving aside all the war games and the many victims the West is creating. Including this one as it looks like.

I understand it is near to impossible to go against the wave. More so during a war. The western countries are willingly or less willingly, driving or driven into this war. May God help us out of it in the less harmful ways.

Some explanation for the curious.
I am not trying to play smart. In a way, I feel the need to present a deferent point of view I believe it is useful. Probably an English person will feel indifferent to these view. It may nevertheless be surely interesting to a curious person. Allow me to add that this is a point of view not from the core of the West. A Greek/Hellenic point of view is inevitably different. If you look at our geography, history and politics, we form an “island” of a different thinking. We are super friendly to the West despite the very many mischiefs in our relationship. We are less friendly with Russia. If it weren’t for the same Christian doctrine it could be even colder of a relationship.

Thanks for reading..!

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
4 months ago

I think this is a very valid contribution. There are no grounds to justify the Russian actions but it is important that in the West we learn to accept that there will always be different world views, depending on where people live and their history and sensitivities. Such a diversity is actually quite important: even though it can lead to conflict, it can also lead to enrichment. If we, in the West, think that we are right and the others are wrong, we need to get ourselves analysed. Exchanges with different views are safeguards. On view is unstable, several views can make balance.

Tim West
Tim West
4 months ago

No grounds? The Russian action was the only possible humane action to take. Anyone fully informed supports this genocide-ending operation 100%

harry storm
harry storm
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim West

That was utterly moronic. No need to elaborate.

Anneli Zetterström
Anneli Zetterström
4 months ago

As a Swede I am not for us joining NATO. I think the west is as responsible as Russia in this conflict. And the censorship equally bad. We have a global crisis in energy, this makes it worse for all of us, there are no winners. Also, how we can let US with a senile president set the agenda…unbelievable
And, it the risk we take by escalating is not small

Last edited 4 months ago by [email protected]
Dominic A
Dominic A
4 months ago

I see now why Donald Murray, in his recent unherd interview said, ‘even the Swedes now are thinking of joining NATO, and this was the country that found the situation in WWII too morally opaque to pick a side’.

Last edited 4 months ago by Dominic A
Justin Clark
Justin Clark
4 months ago

I thought this too for both Sweden and Finland – if Russia invades, for example Finland then it will suffer the same as in Ukraine. However, Sweden and Finland do not have the mutually assured destruction deterrance of a nuclear NATO. Putin may wish to demonstrate his power against such a target. For that reason – nuclear strike not invasion – my thoughts are that Finland and Sweden should join NATO if they want. That’s my thought but I am not Swedish, unlike yourself. Challenging times.

martin logan
martin logan
4 months ago

“Demilitarization” IS War.
The real problem is that the Russian leadership is so divorced from reality that it has zero capability to operate in the real world.
So the best question would have been: “who comes after Putin?”
No leader can come back from a debacle like this. Look for Great Events to happen after reality finally dawns on the Russian population.

Dominic A
Dominic A
4 months ago

The banality of evil.

Fragmentary Gadabout
Fragmentary Gadabout
4 months ago

Some of what Jacques Baud has written is interesting, but equally some of his predictions on the progression of the war seem to be driven by an instinctively pro-Russian bias and don’t seem to have been borne out by reality. The Kramatorsk cauldron may yet be encircled but Russia’s manpower and logistic problems still make that seem unlikely for the time being, thus “the Ukrainian defeat that is taking shape” seems to me rather premature conclusion. It could happen but the imponderables in play are too great to really make such confident assertions.
Not that I really care but when it comes to the various analysts of this war I read, I tend to take note and take count of those who actually make accurate predictions and how often. Michael Kofman for example both predicted the war and predicted there would be no mobilization on the Victory Day, despite breathless reporting from the media and even the Foreign Secretary. He currently predicts a low key partial mobilisation to keep the war going and not a general mobilisation that would be politically damaging and militarily dubious. A partial mobilisation of recently demobbed conscripts and other assorted reseverists (120,000 or so) with some kind of ruse could keep Russia in the field for a long war, where they could see if something turns up in their favour. Some of the quotes seem strange “This explains the high losses in the upper echelons of command, already observed in Afghanistan—but it also tells of the much more rigorous selection of staff-personnel than in the West.” – ah, if this is the case I can’t say we’ve noticed it too much, nor back in the 80s in Afghanistan either.
Also this order seems to have engage in bouts of “Polonophobia”, to use a Krelim term, claiming there were Polish saboteurs in the Donbass seeking to use chemical weapons against the Russian population there. I hear similar claims from Tankies like George Szamuely (who posted that the current events proved why Brezchev was right to have crushed the Prague spring because Dubček would have sought NATO expansion!) or George Galloway. Indeed that old chesnut of idiocy Oliver Stone was openly promoting his theory. All of which makes me suspicious of the least. And what a ironic state of affairs that the Postil, an organisation that supposedly is a “Traditional Catholic” outlet, would rather support the Orthodox church and the glitzy mob rule of Moscow instead of a nation that has shown more sacrifice and struggle for that Church than anywhere else would openly seek to traduce Poland and its concerns. I would maybe remind them that both Belloc and Chesterton were among those who were the most enthusiatic for Catholic Poland’s revival after 100 years of Orthodox oppression. A country that then suffered nearly 50 years of atheistic communist oppression. Maybe we should seek to understand them and their historic concerns rather than that of a country that brazenly poisons people on our territory.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Margaret TC
Margaret TC
4 months ago

Well done Freddie for conducting this extraordinary interview. I guess this guy has been primed for the Western press, though for me he lost credibility when he responded to your interrogation on ‘denazification’ – the comparison with BJ was ludicrous.
I wish you’d pressed him on what took place in the suburbs of Kiev, some of which has been caught on camera.

Last edited 4 months ago by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
M. Gatt
M. Gatt
4 months ago
Reply to  Margaret TC

Yes extraordinary and indecent level of ignorance by Unherd with regards to the post cold war era and how we came to this very sad situation.

martin logan
martin logan
4 months ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

The problem is democracy.
As you well know, the majority of Ukrainians now hate all Russians. Putin on the other hand, sees all Ukrainians as indistinguishable from Russians–which means they have no right to decide their destiny.
So, should we install a dictator or a king?
Democracy brought us to this–in both the EU and Ukraine.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  martin logan

The problem may be democracy(??) but the solution is certainly democracy, let the people decide

martin logan
martin logan
4 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

Tell that to Putin, then.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
4 months ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

Can you explain further? I’m very interested…

M Harries
M Harries
4 months ago

The West are the bad guys?

Should have asked him these questions:
A) Who built the Berlin Wall?
B) Those risking their lives to get over the wall, which way were they traveling?
C) Does he recall the height of Salisbury spire?
D) How disappointed is he that he won’t be able to buy a Big Mac in Moscow again?

Rikard Werrero
Rikard Werrero
4 months ago

Incredibly difficult interview, thank you for trying Freddie and Unherd. He went really low, driven purely by emotion and completely throwing rationality and common sense to the trash bin.

David Fülöp
David Fülöp
4 months ago

What I find incredible is that the people involved in running Russia seemingly believe their own propaganda even while the Russian army is visible disintegrating.

R Wright
R Wright
4 months ago

Given how unreliable Russia is I’m shocked they didn’t seek to join years ago.

Stevebva B.
Stevebva B.
4 months ago

He said they moved in to weaken the Ukraine army to “stop the war against the citizen population of Donbas”. Why didn’t they take that to the UN Human Rights group?

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
4 months ago

Bravo Freddie. Superb interview.

Costa Cornick
Costa Cornick
4 months ago

Dear Mr Sayers, please invite Scott Ritter for an interview, he would be able to articulate Russia’s reasoning (for good or ill) far better than Mr Polyanskiy did.

L i
L i
4 months ago

Really good interview. The end was strange though. An articulate, educated man in a very important position suddenly shoves a piece of paper with a qr code in front of the camera. Odd behaviour.

Last edited 4 months ago by Lisa I
Military Parent
Military Parent
4 months ago

I genuinely appreciate Freddie getting this guy on camera.
However, the REALLY scary thing is… the Bureaucracy in Russia is not much better than USA. Take away the accent, insert Brooklyn, and this Dude takes over for Anthony Fauci.
They both will say anything to preserve themselves. Man o man, what a world.
Take it easy, we are still the “best of the worst”, but it’s not as wide of a margin as we think here in “The States”.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
4 months ago

American impact on the States is fine: sure: hence you fo okay there as you say. It’s American impacts on the rest of the world is the problem!

Priscilla Seidler
Priscilla Seidler
4 months ago

I agree with M Gatt’s reply to M TC below. I am ashamed of the British role in aggravating this whole situation with Ukraine/Russia. It is, as we are now reading in many places, the West fighting a proxy war, using Ukrainian soldiers. So any prolonging of this situation means more deaths of those said soldiers. And the ignorance of the West (and the British politicians and public) about the treatment of the Donbas region over the last eight years is horrifying. The breaking of the Minsk agreements. People should watch UK Column news for fair and objective reporting on this situation. It was good that Freddie Sayers/Unherd held this interview and I generally think he is fair and good, but I wish he had been less patronising and less obviously a propaganda arm of the our MSM. Mr Polyanskiy remained calm and polite throughout – a good diplomat, in other words. The Nazi elements in the Ukrainian army are absolutely to the point – they are paid for and supported by the Ukrainian government and have been perpetrating appalling atrocities against Ukraininan civilians which are then blamed on the Russian. If you are looking to the Western MSM, you will never hear the truth; they are totally biased.

Last edited 4 months ago by Priscilla Seidler
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago

The West isn’t “prolonging the situation”, it’s giving Ukrainians the means to avoid being defeated by the Russians. Should the west have not assisted Ukraine at all, and let Putins murderous regime essentially colonise the people there who clearly want nothing to do with Russia?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The West should be pushing for a negotiated settlement with Russia irrespectiveof supplying arms. But its refusal to do so and US policy to weaken Russia (by prolonging the war) is immoral. Russua has a case: it is not black and white. A negotiated settlement is the only viable solution.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Why? If the Ukrainians wish to fight and try and expel the Russian invaders from their territory why should the West tell them otherwise? While the West are happy to supply aid and arms, and while Ukraine is happy using them then what’s wrong with the status quo?

Priscilla Seidler
Priscilla Seidler
4 months ago

I signed up in order to comment here, but if I were subscribing, I am afraid I would agree with you.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
4 months ago

It seems as if Unherd has lost its objectivity with regard to this very regretable but very predictable conflict. And some of the articles are just pure anti- Russia hate. Very disappointing.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

Might I suggest that it is the Russians who have “lost objectivity” here.
Read the article – there’s Polyanskiy stating “there is no war in Ukraine”.
Of course, that would be very convenient for the Russian leadership – if there really is “no war” then there is no need to explain the 20,000 odd casualties so far. Plus the millions of Ukrainian refugees.
Everything the Russians say is either lies or nonsense.
Almost in the same sentence, uou have Polyanskiy saying “no big deal for us – we can handle it, but not good for Finland and Sweden” and then “there will be consequences”. Either it’s a big deal or it isn’t. They seem so tied up in their own lies and misinformation that they can’t think straight.
Frankly, I think it’s all just bluster from the Russians now.
NATO is not an enemy of Russia. It’s the other way round. Russia needs an enemy – any enemy will do – to justify the continuation of Putin’s disastrous, kleptocratic regime which is ruining Russia for the other 99% of its people.

Charles Byford
Charles Byford
4 months ago

What is the point of listening to a packet of lies from this Russian puppet?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  Charles Byford

Because it’s interesting to hear their justification for their actions, no matter how much it’s clearly a pack of lies

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
4 months ago

The average IQ of Russian policymakers is about 52.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
4 months ago

Really? Such a childish comment.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
4 months ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

I believe Paul is confusing his own IQ in his inane comment..

martin logan
martin logan
4 months ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

Please, then, cite a single thing that the Russian leadership has done since 24 Feb that has helped Russia, or even themselves.
52 might actually be too optimistic.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
4 months ago

And Jo Biden?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Is that his sister?