President Joe Biden is supporting plans for two new countries to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the White House has indicated.
Biden spoke with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on May 13.
Biden “underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements,” the White House said in a call summary.
Around the same time, Karen Donfried, a top U.S. diplomat to Europe, made the administration’s position clear.
“The United States would support a NATO application by Finland and/or Sweden should they choose to apply,” she told reporters on a call.
Under alliance rules, applicants must be approved by every member to join it. The United States government consults with Congress when countries try to join.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said there is strong support among the alliance for Finland and Sweden to join. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said both countries would be welcomed to the alliance, as far as Germany is concerned, though Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that “we don’t hold positive views” of the Scandinavian countries joining.
The foreign ministers of Norway and Denmark echoed Scholz on Saturday as they met with NATO counterparts in Germany.
Finland and Sweden are already partners with NATO, but are considering formally joining the alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland leaders recently announced the country will file an application and communicated as much on Saturday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Niinistö’s office.
Russian officials have warned Finnish and Swedish counterparts that their joining NATO would negatively affect relations, threatening retaliation.
“Putin stressed that rejecting the traditional policy of military neutrality would be wrong since there are no threats to Finland’s security,” Russia’s government said after the call.
“Our parliament will discuss this item on Monday and it’s very likely that there is a very strong majority in our parliament also supporting the NATO membership and then we will issue the application during the coming week,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters after the call.
He said officials were in talks with Turkey to bring tensions down.
NATO currently has 30 member countries, primarily in Europe. They include Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Portugal, and Spain.
The most recent member to join was North Macedonia, in 2020.
The group was founded by the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries in 1949 in part to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II.
Membership is open to “any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.”