US President Joe Biden and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto agreed today to deepen their ties, but did not hint that Helsinki could join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At a meeting of the two leaders in the White House, Biden said Finland was a “strong defense partner” in the West’s “united, transatlantic response” to Moscow’s “attack on world peace,” as he called it.
“We are really living in very difficult times. I also want to thank you for the leadership you have shown. We need it now,” Niinisto said.
Finland cooperates with NATO, but is not a member. The United States could declare it an “important ally” outside of NATO and increase arms sales to the country, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia. Last month, Finland agreed to buy dozens of F-35 fighter jets for $ 9.4 billion from the United States.
However, Finland, which was part of the Kingdom of Sweden until 1809 and then under Russian control until gaining independence in 1917, also sought to maintain friendly relations with Moscow.
Russia does not want Finland to join NATO, but Niinisto said his country reserves the right to apply for membership.
Defense issues are expected to be the focus of talks between the two leaders at the Oval Office in camera. Before the reporters left, Biden said that his predecessor, Barack Obama, often said that people would be fine if decisions were made by the Nordic countries.
“Well, we usually do not start wars,” Niinisto replied.