WASHINGTON, D.C. (NewsNation) — On Thursday, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland will visit the White House to meet with President Joe Biden concerning both countries’ move toward membership in NATO.
While the visit is largely symbolic, it is also something that likely never would have taken place without Vladimir Putin sending Russian troops into neighboring Ukraine. Such actions make any country’s neighbors nervous, and Sweden and Finland are no exceptions.
Finland shares an 830-mile land border with Russia, and Sweden shares an equally significant maritime border with the country. Their neutrality up until now has left Russia feeling fairly secure that NATO didn’t have its entire European side blocked off, but that may be about to change.
Biden’s invitation to Andersson and Niinistö elevates the status of their bid to join NATO, and is a public show of support from the alliance’s strongest member.
Back when the Ukraine invasion began, one of Vladimir Putin’s stated goals was to weaken and undermine the NATO alliance, and especially to prevent Ukraine from joining. Not only has NATO worked more or less as one to stand against the Russian incursion, but now two countries which were formerly staunchly neutral are looking to join up.
Sweden and Finland have nearly unanimous support among current NATO members in their application. The sticking point is Turkish President Recip Erdogan, who has stated publicly that he will veto their bids without some concessions mostly having to do with the countries’ alleged sheltering of Kurdish militants.
Other European countries are said to be working behind the scenes to address Erdogan’s issues, all of which will be discussed today at the White House.
After today’s White House meeting, Biden leaves for South Korea to meet the country’s new president, Yoon Seok-youl. He’ll then travel to Japan. He plans to discuss trade issues and the North Korean nuclear threat with both countries.
While today’s White House visit is a message to Russia, Biden’s trip to Asia is delivering a similar message to China: that a long-rumored invasion of Taiwan will bring a response similar to NATO’s in Ukraine.