(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden offered his “strong support” for Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO, in the face of opposition from Turkey.
Biden met with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House on Thursday, a day after the Nordic countries applied to become members of the defensive alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“They meet every NATO requirement and then some,” Biden told reporters, standing alongside the two Nordic leaders. “This is about the future. It’s about a revived NATO that has the tools and resources, the clarity and conviction to defend our shared values and lead the world.”
Biden said his administration is today “submitting to the US Congress reports on NATO accession for both countries so the Senate can efficiently and quickly move on advising and consenting to the treaty.”
Before the meeting, administration officials signaled Biden’s willingness to throw the weight of the bloc’s largest military power behind the two countries’ inclusion, which would re-shape Europe’s post-Cold War security landscape. It would also represent a strategic embarrassment for President Vladimir Putin, who has sought to constrain expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Sweden and Finland were officially neutral throughout most of the Cold War, and have since developed a close partnership with NATO. The fresh impetus to seek membership arose from Russia’s war with Ukraine, which turned public sentiment in both countries hard against Moscow.
But Biden and the two prospective members must first broker an agreement with Turkey, which blocked their formal NATO application from moving forward over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim they support Kurdish militias. Erdogan has veto power over the accession of Sweden and Norway, because NATO states must be unanimous in accepting new members.
“We take terrorism, seriously, we condemn terrorism, in all its forms, and we are actively engaged in combating it,” Niinisto said.. “We are open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and constructive manner.”
(Updates with further Biden remarks, comment from Niinisto, starting in fourth paragraph)
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