US President Joe Biden said the "last thing" Russia needs is Finland opting to join the Nato military alliance. He made the comment during a press conference marking his first year in office on Wednesday.
However, Biden appeared to confuse Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) with President Sauli Niinistö during his answer to a question about escalating tensions on the Russia-Ukraine border.
In response, Biden said that he had discussed the matter with Finland's Prime Minister — when he in fact spoke with President Niinistö by phone on Tuesday.
"I spoke with the Prime Minister of Finland. And, you know, we’re talking about concern on the part of Finland and Sweden about what Russia is doing. The last thing that Russia needs is Finland deciding to change its status," Biden said, referring to the possibility that Finland could apply to join Nato.
"They didn’t say they’re going to do that, but they’re talking about what, in fact, is going on and how outrageous Russia is being," Biden added.
Biden and Niinistö discussed the "importance of Finland's close defence partnership with the United States and with Nato", according to a statement from the White House, as well as the European security situation and options for finding solutions.
The "lengthy" call was initiated by the US, a statement from the Office of the President of Finland said.
Marin: Nato application "very unlikely" during current term
Speaking to news agency Reuters on Wednesday, Prime Minister Marin said it is "very unlikely" that Finland would apply for Nato membership, at least during her current term in office.
However, she added that the option remained open in the future but noted that Finland "makes its own decisions" when it comes to foreign policy.
"Nobody can influence us, not the United States, not Russia, nor anyone else," Marin said.
On Thursday, Marin told the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that her comments had been "overinterpreted".
"I would like to say very directly that Finland's Nato position is unchanged. We have the opportunity to apply for Nato membership if we so desire," Marin said, reiterating that "we cannot be influenced from the outside".
Marin also noted that neither a majority of the population or Parliament support membership.
"From this point of view, the statement was rather realistic," she said.
Haavisto meets with Stoltenberg
Reuters also cited a recent poll by leading daily Helsingin Sanomat, which found that only 28 percent of respondents wanted Finland to join Nato, while 42 percent were against the idea.
This represents an eight percentage point increase in the number of people in favour of Finland applying for Nato membership compared to a similar poll conducted at the end of 2019.
On Monday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) will meet with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde will also attend the meeting.
Afterwards, the three are to hold a joint press conference at Nato headquarters.
13.10: Updated with Haavisto meeting.
13.18: Updated with more Marin comments.