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  19 May 2022, 23:26

Biden backs NATO bids as Finland, Sweden vow to engage with Turkey

 WASHINGTON, May  19, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - US President Joe Biden on Thursday 
strongly backed Finland and Sweden's bid to join NATO in the face of Russia's 
invasion of Ukraine, as the Nordic nations' leaders promised to address 
concerns raised by Turkey.

With the red-carpet pomp of a White House visit, Biden welcomed Swedish 
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto days 
after they formally announced their NATO aspirations and said he was submitting 
their applications to the US Congress, where there is bipartisan support for 
ratification.

 "The bottom line is simple. Quite straightforward: Finland and Sweden make 
NATO stronger," Biden said, offering the "full, total, complete backing of the 
United States of America."
      
 "Sweden and Finland have strong democratic institutions, strong militaries 
and strong and transparent economies, and a strong moral sense of what is 
right," Biden said with the two leaders at his side in the White House Rose 
Garden.
       
"They meet every NATO requirement, and then some," Biden told assembled 
reporters without taking any questions.
       
Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a 
distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering 
Russia.
      
 But the two nations both moved ahead amid shock over their giant neighbor's 
invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join NATO.
      
 With Russia voicing anger over the NATO bids, Biden said he told the Nordic 
leaders that the United States would "remain vigilant against the threats to 
our shared security."
       
The United States will work to "deter and confront any aggression while 
Finland and Sweden are in this accession process," Biden said.
      
 Drawing an implicit contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden called 
NATO's mutual defense promise a "sacred commitment."
      
 "We will never fail in our pledge to defend every single inch of NATO 
territory," Biden said.
       
       - Addressing Turkish concerns -
    
       
       But membership requires consent of all 30 existing members and Turkey has 
voiced misgivings.
      
 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the two nations of 
backing "terrorism," a reference to the presence in Finland and especially 
Sweden of Kurdish militants from the separatist PKK.
     
  Addressing Turkey, Niinisto said Finland was "open to discussing all the 
concerns that you may have concerning our membership in an open and 
constructive manner."
      
 "We take terrorism seriously. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and we 
are actively engaged in combating it," Niinisto said.
       Andersson said that Sweden is hoping for a "swift ratification process by 
NATO members."
      
 "We are right now having a dialogue with all NATO member countries, 
including Turkey, on different levels to sort out any issues at hand," she said.
      
 Until Turkey's objections, US officials voiced hope for ratification in 
time for a NATO summit next month in Madrid.
      
 Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate who frequently fights 
Biden's agenda, said he would seek quick action on the bids by Sweden and 
Finland.
      
 He noted that Finland already commits two percent of its GDP to defense and 
that Sweden "is on pace to reach that target very soon" -- a threshold backed 
by NATO and long pushed by Washington.
      
 "These nations are setting an example which current treaty allies would do 
well to follow," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
      
 "So I'll be proud to continue amplifying their case for accession however I 
can."


 

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