Thursday. 28.09.2023

US President Joe Biden gave his full backing to applications by both Finland and Sweden to join NATO during a visit by the leaders of both countries to the White House on Thursday.

"This is in my view and the view of our team a momentous day. It's a very, very good day. Today, I'm proud to welcome and offer the strong support of the United States for the applications of two great democracies," he told a White House news conference held with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

"Having two new NATO members in the high north will enhance the security of our alliance and deepen our security cooperation across the board."

Niinistö, whose country shares a a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, said: "I want to thank you, Mr. President, for your steadfast support throughout this process."

Andersson, whose nation has been neutral over the last century, added: "Today the situation in Ukraine reminds us of the darkest days of European history. And I must say that during dark times, it is great to be among close friends.

"We are right now having a dialogue with all NATO member countries, including Turkey, on different levels to sort out any issues at hand."

Finland and Sweden elected to join the defence alliance, in light of the changed European security situation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Of the defence alliance's 30 members, only Turkey has so far objected to the proposal.

Turkish opposition

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again restated his opposition to the alliance's potential new members, telling state television channel TRT on Thursday: "We have told the leaders of NATO that we will say no to the applications of Finland and Sweden. And that continues to be our position.

In order for a country to join NATO, unanimous approval is required by all members.

On Wednesday, Turkey had blocked the start of accession talks with the two countries, accusing both of supporting terrorism due to their alleged support for members of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People's Defence Units (YPG) militia in Syria.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was confident Sweden and Finland would be granted swift admission to the military alliance, despite Turkey's temporary veto, though he also stressed that "the security interests and concerns of all allies must be taken into account."

"I am confident that we will come to a quick decision to welcome Finland and Sweden into the NATO family," Stoltenberg told a joint press conference with Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in Copenhagen on Thursday.

Biden backs NATO membership for Sweden and Finland as Turkey digs in