Austria is not a NATO member and has no plans to become one in the near future, the nation’s foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, told journalists in Brussels on Monday. When asked about his stance on Swedish and Finnish aspirations to join the military bloc, Schallenberg said he “fully respects” the decisions taken by Helsinki and Stockholm but added that it “is their decision and not ours.”
“Austria will continue to be a neutral country,” he said. However, he described the move taken by Sweden and Finland as a “strong signal” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, indicating that Moscow’s policies are flawed.
“[Putin] made NATO more relevant and [what] he achieved was [forcing] two countries to join NATO,” the Austrian minister said, adding that the Russian president’s security strategy “has blown [up] in his face.”
Stockholm and Helsinki officially announced their bids to join the military bloc on Sunday. Moscow has repeatedly warned that it would have to respond if Finland and Sweden join NATO. Russia has said it considers NATO expansion to be a direct threat to its own security.