LONDON – During a meeting with Finnish and Swedish leaders in the White House on Thursday, President Biden reflected on the importance of the two European nations joining NATO, and stated that the Nordic countries make the alliance “stronger”.
Biden spoke with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and expressed his strong support for both nations to join “the strongest and most powerful defense alliance in world history.”
Finland and Sweden “have a strong moral sense of what is right”, Biden said. “They meet all of NATO’s requirements and more.” He went on to say that his administration would work with Congress to approve their membership “quickly.”
Andersson concluded the press conference by stating that “peace and stability in our part of the world is a common security interest. We are here today more united than ever. ”
A change in European security
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February set in motion monumental changes in Europe that would result in a redrawing of the continent’s security map.
One of these changes was cemented on Wednesday when Finland and Sweden formally applied for membership in NATO – thereby giving up decades of neutrality. If accepted, Russia will face new NATO borders, which would more than double. Ironically, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that one of his reasons for invading Ukraine was to push back NATO expansion in the east.
On Sunday, Switzerland’s head of security policy wrote, Paelvi Pulli, announced that the country would consider conducting joint military exercises with NATO countries. “Ultimately, there may be changes in how neutrality is interpreted,” she said.
Even Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland confirmed during a trip to Washington, DCon Monday that “membership of the European Union and membership of NATO will be the cornerstones of an independent Scotland’s security policy.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would oppose both Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership, claiming that they were “home to many terrorist organizations”. refers mostly to Sweden’s perceived support from the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Erdogan claimed that Sweden is “a focus for terror, home to terror” and accused both Nordic nations of supplying money and weapons to terrorist organizations, saying that they could not be part of the military alliance for these reasons. The Associated Press reported.
“We have told our relevant friends that we would say no to Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO, and we will continue on our path like this,” Erdogan said in a video on Thursday. The military alliance makes decisions by consensus, which means that all 30 members must agree and that any nation can veto a membership offer.
Finnish leader Niinistö appealed directly to Turkey during his speech in the White House on Thursday. “We take terrorism seriously, we condemn terrorism in all its forms and we are actively committed to fighting it,” he said. “We are open to discussing any concerns Turkey may have regarding our membership in an open and constructive manner.”
But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it on Thursday he was confident NATO would “come to a speedy decision to welcome both Sweden and Finland to join the NATO family.”
“We address the concerns that Turkey has expressed since reaching an important ally [like] Turkey raises security issues, raises issues, and then, of course, the only way to deal with it is to sit down and find a common ground, he said.
NATO was created during the Cold War in response to Soviet aggression. “The threat from Russia has generated the greatest tensions with the alliance during the post-Cold War era,” Council on Foreign Relations wrote the think tank. For years, NATO was a “completely deadly organization,” Aaron Stein, head of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Yahoo News.
It was because of Putin’s actions in Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014, and former President Donald Trump, who wanted the United States to withdraw from NATO, that made people think about European security again, Stein said. “This has been overloaded with the recent invasion of Ukraine,” he added.
But what does the future hold for Europe’s security? Howard Stoffer, a professor of international affairs at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, told Yahoo News that it will “change a lot.” As an organization, NATO will be “much more revitalized … than ever before” and this in turn will strengthen European unity, he said. After the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, there were questions about whether other state members should also leave. Substances said, however, that NATO will help “Europe really looks forward.”
Another difference, and perhaps a more obvious one, according to Stein, is that it will be a much more militarized border from the Baltic Sea region, Poland and of course Finland. “It turns the Baltic Sea into NATO’s complete domain,” he told Yahoo News. He added that it also leans the balance of power in the Arctic against NATO – a region over which the Kremlin once had almost total dominance.
The fact that the formerly neutral Finland submitted its membership application to NATO did not mean just that 75 years of the freedom of alliance was abandoned, but also that the Nordic country would play a huge role before the 30-member alliance, as Finland shares an 830 km long border with Russia. “The Finns will not be freeriders [in NATO], unlike other countries, ”Stein said. “They must take security very seriously.”