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© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One after landing at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Vantaa, Finland on July 12, 2023. President of Finland Sauli Niinisto will host a visit of President of the United States Joe Biden to Finland and a US-Nord

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By Steve Holland and Essi Lehto

HELSINKI (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Thursday gave his assurance that the United States would stay committed to NATO despite “extreme elements” of the Republican Party, in remarks during a visit to Finland to welcome it as the alliance’s latest member.

“I absolutely guarantee it,” Biden told a press conference when pressed by a Finnish reporter about the U.S. commitment to NATO given political instability in the United States. Biden’s predecessor, Republican former President Donald Trump, threatened to take the United States out of the alliance.

“No one can guarantee the future, but this is the best bet anyone could make,” Biden said. Biden, a Democrat, is running for re-election in 2024 and Trump is the front-runner for Republicans.

Concern lingers in Europe about the reliability of U.S. pledges and global alliances, years after Trump’s norm-busting presidency ended. Trump clashed with NATO leaders over funding the alliance and threatened to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Germany.

Biden said there was overwhelming support for NATO from the American people, from Congress and from both Democrats and Republicans, “notwithstanding the fact there’s some extreme elements of one party,” referring to Republicans.

“I’m saying as sure as anything could possibly be said about American foreign policy, we will stay connected to NATO,” Biden continued, showing a flash of irritation.

Biden’s visit comes almost exactly five years after Trump struck a conciliatory tone with Russian President Vladimir Putin at talks in Helsinki.

Biden was in the city to participate in a summit with the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. He came directly from this week’s NATO summit held in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had only made the alliance stronger.

Biden said NATO had officially elevated its relationship with Ukraine and created a pathway for its membership “as it continues to make progress on the necessary democratic and security reforms required of every NATO member.”

Ukraine could not join the alliance in the middle of a war, he said.

“It’s not about whether they should or shouldn’t join, it’s about when they can join. And they will join NATO,” he said of Ukraine.

Biden said Putin had “already lost the war,” as there was no possibility of Russia winning.

“NEW ERA”

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 President Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion in February 2022.

Ahead of his bilateral meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Biden hailed Finland as an “incredible asset” to the NATO military alliance.

Niinisto said Finland’s NATO membership heralded “a new era in our security”, and applauded Biden for creating unity at the Vilnius summit, which focused on supporting Ukraine.

“You will be one of those who wrote it to history,” he said to Biden about Finland joining the alliance.

Niinisto also said Finland was open to hosting a NATO base on its territory.

“We are discussing the defence cooperation agreement and it has a lot of elements. They are still open. But we are open to negotiations and I know that our counterparties are also very open.”

Biden and the Nordic leaders said in a statement following the talks that they would continue to support Ukraine for as long as necessary.

Biden also welcomed Sweden’s prospective entry to NATO. Sweden had applied to join NATO alongside Finland, but its bid was held up by Turkey, which says Sweden is doing too little against people Ankara sees as terrorists. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan dropped objections to its application this week.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson thanked Biden for his support in the country’s push to join NATO.



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