Finland and Sweden 'meet every Nato requirement', Biden says

US president unequivocally backs Nordic nations' bids to join defensive military alliance

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US President Joe Biden lauded the applications submitted by the once-neutral nations of Finland and Sweden to join Nato amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, offering their bids the total backing of the US.

“Sweden and Finland have strong democratic institutions, strong militaries and strong and transparent economies and a strong moral sense of what is right,” Mr Biden said in remarks from the Rose Garden on Wednesday, alongside Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“They meet every Nato requirement and then some, and having two new Nato members in the high north will enhance the security of our alliances and deepen our security co-operation across the board.”

Sweden and Finland's applications to join the defensive military alliance ended their nations' traditions of neutrality and came after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

“After 200 years of military non-alignment, Sweden has chosen a new path,” Ms Andersson said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that Nato cease its expansion efforts.

Ms Andersson cited Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a “watershed moment” for Sweden and added her country will be best protected by Nato.

While the two Nordic countries have worked closely with Nato efforts in the years following the Cold War, joining the alliance would provide them with more security through Article 5, a mutual defence pact that states Nato allies must intervene if a member nation is attacked.

“We are ready to contribute to the security of the whole alliance making the commitment to mutual security guarantees that being a Nato ally entails,” said Mr Niinisto.

In his remarks, Mr Biden noted the only time the Article 5 was used was in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“The United States will never forget that. And we will never fail in our pledge to defend every single inch of Nato territory,” he said.

The leaders' ambitions of joining Nato come as Turkey raises questions about welcoming them into the alliance. Ankara has demanded Sweden stop supporting Kurdish militants it considers a terrorist group and has asked both to lift their bans on some arms sales to Turkey.

Speaking at the White House, Mr Niinisto said: “We are open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and productive manner.”

He added: “We take terrorism very seriously. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and we are actively engaged in combating it.”

And Ms Andersson said she is open to having discussions with all Nato members to “sort out any issues at hand”.

All 30 Nato members need to approve any new application.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday said Sweden and Finland were “working directly” to address Turkey's concerns and that the US is trying to “help facilitate” a resolution.

Mr Biden was confident that the two countries' bids to join Nato would be successful.

“I think we're going to be OK,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

The president said he was asking the US Senate to approve the countries' Nato memberships. Both applications are expected to receive broad bipartisan support.

The Senate on Thursday was also expected to approve $40 billion in aid for Ukraine to provide weapons and humanitarian assistance through September. The measure received bipartisan approval from the US House of Representatives last week.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 19, 2022, 4:38 PM
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