13 July 2023

Biden says Nato is ‘more united than ever’ as he celebrates new member Finland

13 July 2023

US President Joe Biden said he and other Nato leaders showed the world that the military alliance remains “more united than ever,” as he ended a trip to Europe meant to demonstrate the force of the international coalition against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The allies “understand that this fight is not only a fight for the future of Ukraine”, Mr Biden said, noting that it is also about sovereignty and security.

“At this critical moment in history, this inflection point, the world watching to see, will we do the hard work that matters to forge a better future? Will we stand together, will we stand with one another? Will we stay committed to our course?” Mr Biden said. He said the answer was a “resounding yes”.

Earlier on Thursday in Helsinki, Mr Biden met the leaders of other Nordic nations including Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

Sweden is poised to be admitted as Nato’s 32nd member country after it pledged more co-operation with Turkey on counterterrorism efforts while backing Ankara’s bid to join the European Union. Finland gained Nato membership earlier this year.

Both Finland and Sweden abandoned a history of military nonalignment and sought to join Nato after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

Mr Biden’s brief stop in the Finnish capital is the finale to a tour that was carefully designed to highlight the growth of a military alliance that the president says has fortified itself since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Finland’s admittance to Nato effectively doubled the alliance’s border with Russia.

Mr Biden arrived in Helsinki after what he deemed a successful Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where allies agreed to language that would further pave the way for Ukraine to also become a future member.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the summit’s outcome “a significant security victory” for his country but nonetheless expressed disappointment at not getting an outright invitation to join.

Mr Biden and other administration officials also held what aides said were pivotal conversations with Turkey before that country dropped its objections to Sweden joining Nato.

Mr Biden said he felt good about the trip.

“We accomplished every goal we set out to accomplish,” he told reporters on Wednesday before the flight to Finland.

And despite Mr Zelensky’s expressed frustrations, Mr Biden — who met the Ukrainian leader on Wednesday in Vilnius — said on Thursday that Mr Zelensky “ended up being very happy”.

The US president’s trip this week played out nearly five years to the day since then-president Donald Trump stood alongside Putin in Helsinki and cast doubt on his own intelligence apparatus. That was just days after Mr Trump tore through a Nato summit where he disparaged the alliance and from which he threatened to withdraw the US.

In contrast, Mr Biden has heartily embraced the tenets of multilateralism that Mr Trump shunned, speaking repeatedly of having to rebuild international coalitions after four tumultuous years led by his predecessor.

Opening the broader meeting, Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said his Nordic counterparts had one overriding objective: guarantee the future — security-wise, environmental-wise and technology-wise.

Mr Biden added that the “nations around the table not only share common history, but we share common challenges, and I would add presumptuously, common values.”

The talks at the seaside Presidential Palace in the heart of Helsinki were to focus on closer co-operation between the Nordic countries and the US on security, environment and technology issues, Mr Niinisto’s office said. Mr Biden also scheduled a news conference with Mr Niinisto before departing for Washington.

Mr Biden is the sixth US president to visit Finland. The first involved President Gerald Ford, who would sign the so-called Helsinki Accords with more than 30 other nations in 1975.

But Charly Salonius-Pasternak, senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, noted that Mr Biden’s visit marked the first time a sitting US president came to Finland to honour the country itself, rather than as a neutral location for meeting Russian leaders or other similar reasons.

“The fact that Biden has chosen to go specifically to Finland for Finland is symbolic and, in some ways, very concrete,” he said. “It’s a kind of deterrence messaging that only the United States can do.”

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