Biden reaches Helsinki to welcome Russia’s neighbor Finland to NATO

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US President Joe Biden on Thursday closes out a week focused on rallying NATO unity behind Ukraine with a day-long visit to new member and Russian neighbor Finland, after knocking Russian President Vladimir Putin over his “craven lust for land and power.”

Biden will participate in a US-Nordic summit with the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway in Helsinki and hold a joint news conference with Finland’s president Sauli Niinisto before heading back to Washington.

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Finland’s decision to join NATO broke with seven decades of military non-alignment and roughly doubled the length of the border NATO shares with Russia.

The country repelled an attempted Soviet invasion during World War Two but lost territory. It maintained accommodating relations with Russia until Putin’s Ukraine invasion.

Biden’s visit comes almost exactly five years after then-President Donald Trump and Putin held summit talks in Helsinki and Trump struck a conciliatory tone with the Russian leader.

A White House official said Biden would hail Finland’s entry into NATO and welcome Sweden’s prospective entry.

“We’re seeing a total change to the European security structure as a result of Russia’s move and the Nordic countries writ large have moved closer to the West in response to Russia’s aggressive and destabilizing actions,” the official said.

Biden is also expected to discuss climate change and emerging technologies, among other topics.

Biden has often cited the drive by Finland and Sweden to join NATO as evidence that Putin’s strategy has backfired. “When Putin, and his craven lust for land and power, unleashed his brutal war on Ukraine, he was betting NATO would break apart... but he thought wrong,” Biden said at this week’s NATO summit in Lithuania.

Biden came to Finland having successfully navigated twin challenges at the summit: Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dropped his opposition to Sweden joining NATO, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cooled his rhetoric demanding a quick entry into the alliance.

“We accomplished every goal we set out to accomplish,” Biden told reporters at Vilnius airport before departing for Helsinki.

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