US will support bids from Finland and Sweden to join NATO, Blinken says

Finland formally announced on Sunday that it plans to apply for membership in the Western military alliance.

Published: May 15, 2022 6:34pm

Updated: May 15, 2022 10:49pm

Finland's forthcoming bid to join the NATO alliance will be embraced by the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said while traveling in Europe.

"The United States would strongly support a NATO application by either Sweden or Finland, should they choose to formally apply to the Alliance," Blinken told reporters in Germany on Sunday. 

Finland formally announced earlier in the day that it plans to apply for membership in the Western military alliance, disregarding a warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow would not approve of such a move. 

"This is a historic day," said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who revealed the decision during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin. "A new era begins."

Also on Sunday, Sweden's ruling Social Democrats said they would favor joining NATO. 

The Nordic bids come in reaction to Putin's ongoing assault on Ukraine — an event that brought the NATO alliance closer together, Western officials have said.

"President Putin launched this brutal and unprovoked war thinking he could eliminate Ukraine as an independent country and divide NATO," Blinken said. "Instead, he's only reinforced Ukraine's sovereignty and independence as Ukraine has chased the Russian army away from Kyiv. NATO is stronger, more capable, more unified than ever."

The lesson is one of unity, Blinken told reporters.

"We have seen unprecedented action," he said. "And I'm very convinced that that’s going to continue as long as Russia's aggression does."

Not all members of the 30-country alliance have welcomed Finland and Sweden to join the group. Turkey has viewed the Nordic countries as offering safe havens for Ankara's opponents, including those who support Fethullah Gulen, an aging religious leader who lives in the United States, and who Turkey claims helped orchestrate a failed 2016 coup. 

Talks within the alliance have been underway to assuage Turkey, and to encourage it to support the forthcoming NATO applications from Finland and Sweden. One member nation, Croatia, said on Sunday that those talks are progressing well.

"I think the discussion is on the good track, and today I hope we will have a final fruitful discussion and a good outcome to show solidarity and to speak with one voice," said Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman during his trip to Berlin. 

The talks are part of an "ongoing conversation" to address the "the differences between Turkey, Finland, and Sweden," Blinken said, adding: "The bottom line is this. When it comes to the membership process, I am very confident that we will reach consensus."

Blinken on Monday will join Vice President Kamala Harris in the United Arab Emirates, as part of the U.S. presidential delegation to offer condolences for the May 13 death of the country's president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. 

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