Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson are on their way to the United States to meet with President Joe Biden on Thursday.
the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the two countries plan to submit their countries’ NATO applications together at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.
The leaders made the comments at a joint press conference on Tuesday in Stockholm.
Niinistö said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of February made both Finland and Sweden start working to join NATO.
“Previously both [Finland and Sweden] and Russia believed that our freedom of alliance contributed to stability, but when Russia said we were not allowed to apply for NATO membership, that changed, says Niinistö.
“That meant we had to do something, and after February 24th [the first day of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine]it became clear what we needed to do “, he continued.
Niinistö also noted Russia’s recent decision to take a more relaxed stance than has previously been the case with regard to Finland’s and Sweden’s potential accession to the alliance.
On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO would most likely make “not much difference”, with the president Vladimir Putin made a similar comment the day before.
Niinistö suggested that a change of tone could show that the leaders do not want to tell the Russians that they have another problem.
The president said that he had considered whether there would be harsh retaliation from Russia due to Finland’s NATO decision, and added that this did not seem to be the case, but noted that the situation could still change.
Andersson said that Sweden and Finland will submit their respective NATO applications at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.
“I’m glad we’ve taken the same path and we can do it together,” she said. “Membership strengthens security for Sweden and the Baltic Sea region. The fact that we do this together means that we can contribute to security in northern Europe and take part in extensive Nordic co-operation.”
The leaders also took up the latest comments from the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan that his country was not for the Nordic countries to join NATO, citing concerns about the presence of “terrorists” in both countries.
Niinistö said that both he and Andersson tried to contact Erdoğan. He also noted that he was surprised by Turkey’s changed stance on the issue, and said that the country had previously expressed a positive attitude towards Finland’s membership in NATO.
Andersson said that the two countries are prepared to travel to Turkey “to discuss and straighten out the question marks that may exist.”
“I think democracy has won”
Niinistö praised the Finnish parliamentary parties’ demonstration of solidarity after the overwhelming majority of members of parliament voted to approve Finland’s application to join NATO.
He noted that 94 percent of 199 MPs voted in favor of the motion, saying that the process
Niinistö and Andersson will travel to the United States on Thursday to meet with US President Joe Biden to discuss their countries’ pending NATO applications.
Niinistö said that it will be very interesting to talk to Biden about the timetable for NATO applications.