Biden hosts the leaders of Finland and Sweden, eager to accelerate access to NATO

President Biden will host the Swedish Prime Minister and the President of Finland at the White House on Thursday, determined to send a strong signal of support to the two nations in their push for NATO membership.

The meeting comes just a day after the long-term neutral countries membership is formally required in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the defense pact founded after World War II, although an existing member is trying to slow things down.

Turkey on Wednesday prevented NATO from starting the process of reviewing the organization for the admissions of Finland and Sweden. Biden and his aides rejected the move, expressing confidence that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s objections could be resolved.

“We are confident that at the end of the day, Finland and Sweden will have an effective and efficient accession process and that Turkey’s concerns can be addressed”, Jake Sullivan saidBiden’s national security adviser, during a briefing at the White House.

Turkish officials criticized both Nordic countries for imposing export bans on certain military goods to Turkey and for supporting “terrorist organizations”, including the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. Turkey has been fighting the PKK, which the US considers a terrorist group, since the 1980s.

Speaking as if NATO’s expansion were a mere formality, Sullivan called it “a historic event, a watershed moment in European security”, declaring that “two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will join the most powerful defensive alliance in the world. world”.

Biden, who had issued a formal statements Earlier in the day, declaring his “strong support” for the two nations’ NATO offers, he told reporters he remained optimistic.

“I think everything will be fine,” he said.

Biden is tightening in Thursday’s meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto ahead of his departure for Seoul and a six-day Asian swing aimed at consolidating ties with Indo-Pacific allies to further restrict China and Russia.

While leaders are sure to privately discuss their ongoing efforts to sweeten Turkey, the outward symbolism of the White House meeting is meant to convey a clear message to other NATO members and the world.

“NATO is an organization of 30 members. But when Washington leads, other countries follow, ”said Rachel Rizzo, a senior researcher at the Atlantic Council’s Europa Center. “If Turkey’s objections were insurmountable, I don’t think the United States and [NATO Secretary General Jens] Stoltenberg would have been so certain in their rhetoric about enlargement. They behave as if this were a bump, not a traffic light. ”

In reality, however, it will take months before Finland and Sweden are welcomed into the alliance. Although all 30 member nations vote to approve their applications at next month’s NATO summit in Madrid, the organization’s treaty requires parliamentary approval from all member states before the process is completed.

The president’s official statement promised that the United States “will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security and to discourage and address aggression or the threat of aggression” while their questions are under consideration.

“We will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this trial,” Sullivan said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to warn Finland and Sweden not to run for NATO membership with vague threats of military force.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine – a necessary response, the Kremlin said, to crush that country’s aspirations for NATO membership – has failed for Moscowchanging the security calculations for European leaders and fostering a new cohesion and deeper purpose within a decades-old organization that seemed to be fraying.

In Sweden and Finland, countries pronounced during the Cold War with strategic neutrality, Russia’s attack on a neighboring ruler triggered a shocking change in public opinionas long-skeptical majorities of NATO membership quickly came to view the alliance as vital to their long-term security.

If Finland joins the alliance, it will double the amount of NATO territory bordering Russia, a geopolitical shift with ramifications for both sides.

Biden, in responding to Putin’s unprovoked war with increased economic sanctions on Russia and defense aid for Ukraine, has decided to move hand in hand with NATO allies, believing that to maintain unity among democratic allies is essential to ensure Russia’s final defeat.

Now, the prospect of an expanding NATO – 30 nations, essentially, committed to ensuring the security of two other European nations, including one with a shared 830-mile border with Russia – will once again test the alliance’s ties.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, meeting his Turkish counterpart at the United Nations on Wednesday, expressed the administration’s gratitude for Turkey’s solidarity so far in responding to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two countries will work to “overcome differences through dialogue and diplomacy”.

Standing next to Blinken as he answered reporters’ questions, Cavusoglu said: “You know, Tony, Turkey supported NATO’s open door policy even before this war, but about these possible candidates – already candidate countries – you know , we also have legitimate security concerns ”.

“So”, he added, “what I’m trying to say is: we understand their security concerns, but Turkey’s concerns should also be met.”

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