President Biden held a secure phone call Friday morning with the president of Finland and the prime minister of Sweden, one day after Finnish officials indicated they were looking to quickly apply for NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The president’s call with Swedish PM Magdelana Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö lasted close to 40 minutes, the White House said. Details of the discussion were not immediately disclosed.
In a joint statement published Thursday, Niinistö and Finnish Prime Minister Sann Marin said the Nordic country “must” bid for inclusion in the Atlantic alliance.
“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence [sic] alliance,” they said.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay, we hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Days earlier, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Sweden and Finland in order to sign an agreement that the United Kingdom would protect both nations if Russia chose to attack.
The Kremlin has warned Finland against joining NATO, saying it would “inflict serious damage to Russian-Finnish relations as well as the stability and security in Northern Europe.”
“Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps of military-technical and other characteristics in order to counter the emerging threats to its national security,” Moscow’s Foreign Ministry has said. “History will determine why Finland needed to turn its territory into a bulwark of military face-off with Russia while losing independence in making its own decisions.”
Russia’s warnings mirror similar concerns it voiced earlier this year about Ukraine joining NATO prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering the invasion of his western neighbor Feb. 24.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also come out against Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO, telling reporters Friday that both nations are “home to many terrorist organizations,” according to CNBC. Erdogan was making an apparent reference to Kurdish refugees who have made Sweden their home in recent years.
Prospective NATO members must be approved by all 30 current members of the alliance, including Turkey.