Biden welcomes Finland, Sweden’s move to NATO as proof of unity against Russia

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President Biden hailed Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO as “a watershed moment in European security”, adding that the entry of two well-equipped, strong democracies would strengthen the Western alliance in times of intense tensions with Russia.

Welcoming Nordic leaders at the White House Rose Garden, Biden said their decision came after President Vladimir Putin’s attack. Ukraine’s abandonment of a decade-old position of military disarmament has proved that a “revived NATO” can provide a powerful counter-response to dictatorship and aggression.

Standing together today, we reject the bloody religion that may be right and we declare a stronger religion, one for one and for all, “Biden said. “Because what makes NATO stronger is not just our huge military capabilities, but our commitment to each other, to its values. NATO is the alliance of choice, not coercion

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson says Sweden has chosen a new path at a time that commemorates “the darkest days in European history.”

I must say that in the dark, it is great to be among close friends, “he said, highlighting the unity of European countries as they have repeatedly imposed sanctions on Russia and provided Putin with unprecedented military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since February 24. Humiliation.

Biden, who met with Anderson and Finnish President Sauli Ninistট at the Oval Office before giving a public speech, did not mention any specific security measures that the United States would provide to the two countries before their membership was finalized. The duration of the application is seen as a particularly weak one, as the two countries have for years denied Russia’s threat against joining NATO but the alliance’s security has not yet fallen under the umbrella.

Although Putin has suggested a more muted response to the Nordic decision this week, since his troops are stuck in Ukraine, other Russian officials have issued stern warnings about possible military retaliation and even suggested that Moscow could deploy nuclear weapons along the Baltic Sea coast. Nordic officials say they do not expect any impending attack from Russia despite the threat.

Before joining the 30-nation bloc, Finland and Sweden will have to allay the concerns of Turkey, which has accused Ankara of treating Kurdish militants lightly. This week, Turkey blocked preliminary talks on cementing applicants’ access.

Ninistিস্ত said his country was discussing its concerns with Turkey and said it was waiting for the moment when both countries would enjoy – and be bound by – NATO’s central policy, the mutual defense commitment known as Article 5.

“We are ready to contribute to the security of the entire alliance,” he said.

NATO officials say they want to complete the accession process as soon as possible, with technical talks likely to be completed in a few weeks so that each member state’s legislature can vote to accept new members. It is unclear how far the process will go during a meeting of NATO leaders in Madrid in late June.

Almost unanimous Western support for the accession of Finland and Sweden stands in stark contrast to the protracted split over possible entry into Ukraine, which NATO announced more than a decade ago that would eventually join the alliance but has not yet met the entry criteria. Russia’s use of NATO as a threat to its security has been dismissed by Russia as a threat to its security.

Jim Townsend, who served as a senior Pentagon official on European defense issues during the Obama administration, said he hoped NATO would be able to reach an agreement if Finland, Sweden or other NATO countries offered Turkey something to advance its interests. , Potentially in an unrelated area.

He said Turkey had objected to previous NATO moves, including the appointment of Danish politician Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO secretary-general in 2009, over the publication of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad and other issues in a Danish newspaper. “They are using this NATO consensus, where the Turkish vote is as strong as the United States,” he said.

Although experts do not expect Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO to have a direct impact on Kiev’s fight against Russian aggression, they say it will allow European countries to be more confident as they plan possible showdowns with Russia in Europe’s more vulnerable security environment. It remains to be seen, for example, whether the leaders of those countries will allow NATO to conduct military flights through their airspace during a crisis or whether they will object to actions that could lead to a conflict.

Townsend noted that Finland had repeatedly fought against Russia during World War II and said that the two countries’ accession to NATO represented a great rebuke to Putin. Facing a more volatile Europe, he said: “They have not gone deep into neutrality; They went to NATO. “

The move could give the biggest boost to the smaller, unprotected Baltic states, which could soon become allies in a new deal with powerful military forces nearby. Both Finland and Sweden have a long history of working alongside NATO troops. Finland has a strong artillery force and is in the process of purchasing 64 F-35 stealth fighters.

The talks came just before the US Senate approved more than 40 40 billion in additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Separately, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the Biden administration would send up to $ 100 million worth of new military equipment to Ukraine from Defense Department stocks.

Karun Demirjian contributed to this report.

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