Biden Commemorates Allied Unity in Helsinki: A Post-Trump-Putin Summit Reflection
President Joe Biden and leaders from Nordic countries convened on Thursday, culminating a significant European tour that carried immense symbolic weight both domestically and internationally, showcasing the president’s vision for America’s global role.
The heads of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland underscored their cooperation with the United States at the same venue where former President Donald Trump held a two-hour one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin exactly five years ago. That summit witnessed the then-president aligning with Putin on the issue of Kremlin interference in the 2016 election, an astonishing rejection of US intelligence that raised concerns in Washington and allied capitals worldwide.
In stark contrast, Biden set an entirely different tone five years later. Surrounded by longstanding and new allies, he discussed Finland’s recent inclusion and Sweden’s expected accession to the NATO alliance, particularly amid Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Biden stated that this decision “serves as a reminder that the nations at this table not only share a common history but also face shared challenges and, presumptuously, common values.”
He addressed the leaders during the summit held at Finland’s presidential palace, emphasizing their joint efforts to support Ukraine. Biden declared, “Together, we stand with the courageous Ukrainian people as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal assault.”
The gathering marked the third summit of its kind and the first under the Biden administration. It followed a significant victory for Biden in Vilnius, Lithuania, as Turkey dropped its objections to Sweden’s NATO membership earlier in the week. The summit provided a platform for leaders to discuss various pressing issues.
During the meeting, leaders celebrated their achievements, highlighting the momentum gained after Finland’s NATO accession and Sweden’s forthcoming inclusion. This strong display of unity boosted morale and supported Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reversal on Sweden’s NATO membership represented a remarkable turnaround, given his longstanding concerns.
Reflecting on the developments, Biden, in a meeting with President Sauli Niinistö, expressed his confidence in NATO, stating, “I’ve been in this for a long time, and I don’t think NATO has ever been stronger. It’s a different era. Our relationship, along with Sweden’s inclusion, makes an enormous difference.”
In the days leading up to the Vilnius summit, the Biden administration exerted considerable effort to convince Turkey to support Sweden’s accession, following months of behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
Biden recounted a conversation with Niinistö, stating that when Finland sought NATO membership, he responded with an immediate “yes.” He also commended Finland as a valuable partner and an incredible asset to NATO. The Finnish president’s vision aligns with Biden’s, with the US president adding, “I told our friend in the East that if he wants Finland-ization of NATO, he’ll get the NATO-ization of Finland.”
In addition to these discussions, Arctic security was a key topic on the agenda. The presence of China and Russia in the Arctic, an area increasingly accessible due to climate change, raised concerns. Satellite imagery obtained by CNN revealed Russia’s continuous expansion of military bases in the Arctic during the 500-day-long conflict in Ukraine. China has also been scaling up its presence in the region.
As an Arctic nation itself, the United States has taken steps to strengthen its engagement in the region.
The leaders were also expected to explore opportunities for cooperation in technology, including 5G and artificial intelligence. Climate engagement and clean energy were significant areas of focus during the visit to Helsinki.
Later in the day, Biden and Niinistö held a joint news conference, marking the first time the US president answered questions from reporters in a formal setting during his weeklong trip.
Biden returned to Washington in the evening, concluding the transformative European tour.