White House Says It Would "Strongly Support" Finland & Sweden NATO Membership
The Biden White House now appears to be going all-in on the potential for Finland and Sweden seeking formal application for NATO membership, despite Moscow's recent repeat warnings that such an action would immediately ratchet nuclear tensions in the Baltic region.
While previously issuing vague statements of positive support for the Scandinavian countries' discussions on the controversial issue - given especially that Finland shares an over 800-mile long border with Russia - on Thursday Secretary of State Antony Blinken took US support further by saying for the first time the Untied States would "strongly support" Sweden and Finland pursuing NATO membership.
"We, of course, look to them to make that decision. If that’s what they decide, we will strongly support it," Blinken told Democratic Representative Jim Costa (Calif.) during House testimony.
The US top diplomat added that it's “under very active consideration by both countries” but said that no timeline had been set - referencing statements from Finnish and Swedish top officials of the past days.
Also on Thursday NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued more statements suggesting the countries would be 'fast-tracked' after earlier this month saying something similar. He said according to The Associated Press:
“It’s their decision... but if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect that process to go quickly."
Earlier this month polling in Scandinavian regional media strongly suggested that public mood had shifted in Finland, which had long been proud of its neutral stance on the question, and generally amicable and cooperative relations with Russia.
"Public support and political momentum for Finland joining NATO has reached an all-time high as a result of the war in Ukraine, raising the very real possibility that the alliance's borders with Russia could extend by more than 830 miles in a matter of months," the prior report said.
This is a trend that has continued through the month as Russian military operations have grown fiercer in eastern and southern Ukraine...
Support for #Nato-membership increasing in #Finland:— Ville Cantell (@villecantell) April 28, 2022
65 % in favor, 13 % against (22 % undecided) https://t.co/PzBcXgGY7g
As we reported earlier this week, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, are set to meet during the week of May 16 and are expected to announce their intention to seek a NATO membership after that - thus a major announcement could come as early as a few weeks.