President Joe Biden made a historic commitment to back Finland's and Sweden’s accessions into NATO, urging Congress to advance the push quickly.
“They meet every NATO requirement and then some,” Biden said on Thursday at the White House. “The bottom line is simple. Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger.”
Walking into the Rose Garden, Biden placed his hands on the shoulders of Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, a show of support for the two Nordic countries as they prepared to set aside decades of neutrality.
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Biden said discussions over accession began with Finland’s president in December and continued in January amid Russia’s lead-up to the war in Ukraine. In March, Niinisto visited the White House, and together, they called Sweden.
Biden “encouraged us to go further,” Niinisto said of the March visit. “That was of vital importance to our process.”
Finland, which shares an 800-mile frontier with Russia, has built significant military defenses. Joining NATO would bolster the alliance’s collective security in the Baltic region.
“Russia’s war in Ukraine has changed Europe and our security environment,” Niinisto said.
Russia has long objected to NATO expansion and said before invading Ukraine that it was threatened by Kyiv’s efforts to join the alliance. The war has prompted Finland and Sweden to move in the opposite direction and add their well-funded armed forces to the defensive group.
Biden dismissed Russia’s concerns and reiterated the alliance’s "open-door" pledge. “New members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation — never has been,” Biden said.
He said his administration would send reports to Congress “today” on Finland's and Sweden’s accessions and urged Congress to ratify its treaty with the alliance quickly.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters a day earlier that the president’s Cabinet principals were unanimous on supporting Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
“They have already proven themselves as highly capable security partners,” Sullivan argued. “In the parlance, we say, ‘net security contributors,’ meaning they give a heck of a lot more than they take when it comes to a security partnership or an alliance.”
He said Russia’s aggression had reinforced the argument for NATO as a defensive alliance.
Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO on Wednesday but will need the support of all 30 member countries. Turkey has registered objections, which Niinisto said Finland was working to address.
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Sullivan said on Wednesday that the U.S. is “confident” NATO will move to approve Sweden's and Finland’s applications.
“I expect these differences will be settled,” he added. “I expect that NATO will speak with one voice in support of Finland and Sweden at the end of the day.”