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WASHINGTON: Finland on Monday signed an agreement to enhance military cooperation with the United States, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the neighbouring country over its entrance into NATO.

The Defense Cooperation Agreement formalizes greater ties with the United States, including joint training of forces and military interoperability, in line with Finland’s accession to the Atlantic alliance in April.

Signing the agreement in Washington with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen hailed it as a “strong sign of US commitment to the defense of Finland and the whole northern Europe.”

“We do not expect the United States to take care of the defense of Finland. We continue to invest in our defense and share the burden in our area and beyond,” he said.

Putin warns of ‘problems’ with Finland after NATO membership

“However, this agreement significantly enhances our ability to act together in all situations.”

Finland, which fended off a Soviet invasion in the 1939-40 Winter War, for decades steered clear of formally entering NATO for fear of antagonizing its giant neighbor but changed course following Russia’s assault on Ukraine, which had tried unsuccessfully to enter the alliance.

In an interview with state television released Sunday, Putin charged that the West had “dragged” Finland into NATO, saying Russia had long ago settled 20th-century disputes with Helsinki.

Putin announced the creation of a new district within Russia’s military near Finland, with which Russia shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border.

Blinken, speaking at the signing, said Finland “knows almost better than anyone what is at stake for Ukraine.”

“In 1939, the Finns also faced a Russian invasion, and proved that a free nation can put up an incredibly powerful and resilient resistance,” Blinken said.

“Your history is also a reminder of why it’s so important that we all continue to stand with Ukraine,” he added.

“Autocrats who try to redraw one nation’s border by force almost certainly will not stop there.”

Both Blinken and Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen renewed support for the entrance into NATO of Sweden, which launched its bid alongside Finland but has been held up by Turkey.

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