Biden Seeks Quick Effort to Bring Finland and Sweden into NATO

Under an agreement with the Soviet Union, Finland was kept out of the alliance, which was created to contain Russia after World War II. It remained independent in the post-Soviet era even after joining the European Union and growing closer to the West. Until now, Sweden had maintained more than 200 years of neutrality.

But that stance was quickly abandoned after Putin’s decision in February to invade Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. Both Finland and Sweden suddenly realized that the threat from Russia had changed and that their status as bystanders in the great power conflict was now at great risk.

The speed of the reversal has been so great that there has been virtually none of the debate that took place after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when even some of Washington’s most experienced Cold War diplomats warned that the closer felt Russia, the greater the chances that it will eventually explode, especially if the effort to integrate the country with the West fails.

On Wednesday, Sullivan said that Biden had asked his national security officials if they supported adding Finland and Sweden to the alliance and that they had unanimously “emphatically supported” the move.

The Rose Garden ceremony deliberately contained echoes of a state visit, complete with a military band. Mr. Biden characterized the move to bring Finland and Sweden into the alliance as almost a formality, noting that both countries had contributed forces to the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq—the main NATO commitments of the last 20 years. — and that they were strong democracies that “meet all NATO requirements and then some.”

Biden argued that the two countries would add to the firepower of the alliance.

Finland has a sophisticated military that runs complex operations to track Russian activity in the northern European seas and spends heavily on modern equipment. Sweden is a more difficult case: it dismantled some of its military power and, as Andersson admitted, it would have to redirect its budget to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, the goal of NATO members.

But for the United States, the main benefit of the Nordic countries joining the alliance is the message sent to Putin. In December, the Russian president demanded the United States and NATO sign a treaty that would withdraw forces from former Soviet states and restrict weapons training and placement activities.

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