US President Joe Biden has pledged his full support to Sweden and Finland for their NATO membership applications and has defended the two countries against criticism from Turkey.
“Sweden and Finland have strong democratic institutions, a strong army, a strong and transparent economy, and a strong moral sense of what is right,” Biden said Thursday, without mentioning Turkey directly. The two countries would meet all NATO requirements.
“Finland and Sweden are making NATO stronger,” stressed the US President at a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in the White House. Biden also issued an indirect warning to Russia.
They agreed to oppose “any aggression” while the admissions process for the two countries is ongoing. “Nothing will be overlooked (…) I mean that seriously,” said Biden. “The accession of new members to NATO does not pose a threat to any nation.”
Sweden and Finland officially applied for NATO membership on Wednesday. Security concerns about the Russian invasion of Ukraine are the reason for Sweden and Finland’s desire to join. Finland shares a border with Russia that is more than 1,300 kilometers long. For decades, both states have resolutely pursued a policy of military non-alignment.
Finland and Sweden are making NATO stronger, Biden stressed. A strong NATO is the basis for US security, said the US President. He is proud to support the applications of the two northern EU countries to join the “strongest and most powerful defense alliance in world history”.
Turkey had initially blocked the two countries’ NATO applications, thus slowing down the rapid start of accession talks. The government in Ankara raised security concerns over the alleged support of both countries for the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK and the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria.
“We have told those responsible in NATO that we will say no to the accession of Finland and Sweden. And we will continue to do so,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday. He added: “Sweden is a real hotbed of terror.”
Finnish President Niinistö tried in Washington to address concerns in Ankara. He announced further talks with Turkey and emphasized that as a NATO member one would also work for Turkey’s security. We are ready to discuss Turkey’s concerns.
Swedish Prime Minister Andersson stressed that Sweden meets the requirements for NATO membership. The country is ready to assume its responsibilities in the alliance, she said. According to Andersson, the grant application is a turning point in Sweden’s history.
The US government has recently shown itself to be confident that it will eventually be possible to find a solution to the differences with Turkey. However, it is unclear how Turkey can be prevented from vetoing Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership.
According to diplomats, in addition to declarations by the northern countries on the fight against terrorism, arms deals hoped for by Turkey could also play a role. The government in Ankara wants to buy F-16 fighter jets in the USA – but a possible deal was politically controversial in Washington recently.
“Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey to achieve this, but we are also speaking to the Turks to try to facilitate the process,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday.