Biden meets with leaders from Sweden and Finland to discuss NATO and Russia.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden has welcomed the leaders of Sweden and Finland to the White House to discuss their applications to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden welcomed Sweden and Finland’s leaders to the White House on Thursday, hailing the countries’ bids to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden greeted Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö with handshakes and laughing at the White House as they convened for trilateral discussions on the NATO mutual defence pact as well as larger European security concerns. Despite Turkey’s ongoing opposition, his administration has expressed optimism about their applications to join the alliance, which would be a major embarrassment for Russia.

After escorting his fellow leaders to the Rose Garden, Biden said, “Today I’m proud to welcome and offer the strong support of the United States for the applications of two great democracies, and two close, highly capable partners to join the strongest, most powerful defensive alliance in the history of the world.”

“They fulfil every NATO requirement and then some,” he said, adding that “having two new NATO members in the high north will strengthen our alliance’s security.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that NATO stop expanding toward Russia’s borders, and several NATO allies, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, have indicated that they are prepared to provide security support to Finland and Sweden if the Kremlin tries to provoke or destabilise them during the transition period.

Finland and Sweden, which were Cold War neutrals, now work closely with NATO. Once the membership ratification procedure is completed, the countries will be able to take advantage of NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee, which states that any assault on one member will be considered an attack on all members. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, public opinion in Finland and Sweden has swung dramatically in favour of membership.

Each of NATO’s 30 member countries has the right to veto a membership bid because the organisation requires consensus on decisions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his opposition to the two countries joining the alliance in a video released on Thursday.

“We have told our relevant friends that we will say ‘no’ to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, and we will continue on our path like way,” Erdogan said in a video for Atatürk, Teenagers and Sports Day, a national holiday, to a group of Turkish youth.

Erdogan has stated that Turkey’s objection arises from Sweden’s — and to a lesser extent Finland’s — apparent support for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and a Syrian armed group that Turkey considers to be an extension of the PKK. Since 1984, the fight with the PKK has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Turkey also accuses Sweden and Finland of housing supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who the Turkish government blames for a failed military coup attempt in 2016.

The protests echo Turkish accusations about even stronger US support for Kurds, as well as Gulen’s presence in the United States.

When asked if he was confident in his ability to secure their entrance into NATO, Biden answered, “I think we’re going to be okay.”

Finland and Sweden are “working directly” with Turkey to resolve its concerns, according to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and the US is also communicating with Turkish officials to “attempt to help facilitate” a settlement.

“You’ve got a noisy collection of states with all kinds of attitudes, viewpoints, and interests,” Sullivan explained. “However, they also know when and how to come together, as well as how to resolve any conflicts.” And I believe these disagreements will be resolved.’

“I expect NATO to speak with one voice in support of Finland and Sweden at the end of the day,” he continued.

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