Washington, May 19 (IANS) US President Joe Biden on Thursday offered “full, total, complete” support for Sweden and Finlands applications to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Sweden and Finland had applied for membership of the 30-country military alliance on Wednesday. They have cited Russian invasion of Ukraine as their reason for shedding their longstanding neutrality, though they are members of the European Union and have cooperated militarily with NATO.
“Today I’m proud to assure them that they have the full, total, and complete backing of the United States of America,” Biden said, reiterating US support in a joint public appearance with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland at the White House.
The American leader added that his administration has already started the process of ratifying the expansion of NATO.
Sweden and Finland’s membership applications ran into trouble from the word go as Turkey, a NATO country, announced its opposition citing their ambivalence regarding the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or as it is better known as PKK, which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the EU.
All 30 member countries of the alliance must agree to any new inclusion.
Finland’s President Niinisto vowed to address Turkey’s concerns, saying he is hoping for “strong support” from all allies.
“Finland has always had proud and good bilateral relations with Turkey. As NATO allies, we will commit to Turkey’s security, just as Turkey will commit to our security. We take terrorism seriously. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and we are actively engaged in combating it,” he said, adding, “We are open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and tractive manner.”
Sweden’s Prime Minister Andersson called for a “swift ratification” of the application, undertaking to address all concerns that any NATO member country may have.
“We look forward to a swift ratification process by NATO members,” she said, adding, “We are right now having a dialogue with all NATO member countries, including Turkey, on different servers to sort out any issues at hand,” Andersson said.
NATO was last expanded in March 2020 with North Macedonia becoming its 30th member. Sweden and Finland’s applications were prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which had been wanting to join the alliance for years. Stopping Ukraine and preventing NATO’s expansion were President Vladimir Putin’s key reasons for attacking Ukraine and he appears to have triggered just the opposite effect.
The two Baltic countries began reconsidering their neutrality as the possibility of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grew stronger over the past few months and public opinion in both countries turned.
Biden said he and Niinisto first discussed it in December 2021 and then in January 2022. In March — Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 — they discussed it at a White House meeting, when the Finnish leader came to the US and during their meeting they had called and spoken to the Swedish leader.
Their Thursday meeting came just hours ahead of President Biden’s departure for South Korea and Japan for his Asia visit. In Japan, he will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the second in-person summit of the Quad — the Quadrilateral Security Conference of the US, India, Japan and Australia.