Skip to content

Niinistö on White House visit: "Well, we don't usually start wars"

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö met US President Joe Biden in Washington on Friday.

Biden ja Niinistö kiittelivät toisiaan yhteistyöstä
Biden ja Niinistö kiittelivät toisiaan yhteistyöstä

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö agreed to strengthen ties with the United States during a visit to Washington DC on Friday where he met his US counterpart Joe Biden and a number of other senior figures in the US political and security leadership. Finland initiated the meeting with Niinistö's office reaching out to the White House earlier in the week.

The two heads of state discussed Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as the war's impact on European and Finnish security arrangements, and bilateral relations between the two countries.

In a brief photoshoot before the meeting, Biden said that Finland is a "strong defensive partner" in the "united trans-Atlantic response" to Russia's attack on Ukraine and what he called an attack on global peace. He added that he has been in regular contact with Niinistö "for some time".

"Finland is a vital partner for the United States and also a strong defensive partner for Nato," the US President said.

In response, Niinistö said that the world is living in "very difficult times".

"I want to thank you also for the leadership you have shown. We need it now," Niinistö said.

In another exchange, Biden referenced comments made by his Presidential predecessor Barack Obama.

"President Obama used to say, we'd be alright if we left everything to the Nordic countries, everything would be fine," Biden said.

"Well, we don't usually start wars," Niinistö replied.

Nato doors still open

Speaking to Finnish media after the visit, Niinistö said that he and Biden had discussed deepening Finnish-US security co-operation.

That co-operation could take a broader Nordic dimension, according to Niinistö, and that Biden had suggested calling the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson during the meeting — which the two presidents then did.

Andersson visits Finland on Saturday, while Finland's Defence Minister, Antti Kaikkonen,(Cen) heads to Washington DC on Monday.

The deepened co-operation between Finland and the US is about concrete defence measures, rather than Nato membership, said Niinistö.

Biden had reaffirmed Nato's so-called "open doors" policy, according to Niinistö, who said the two presidents had a 'good understanding'.

Do you want the main stories from Finland curated and delivered straight to your inbox? Then sign up for our weekly All Points North newsletter!

US support for Finland

In a tweet (siirryt toiseen palveluun) sent earlier on Friday, the US President said he was looking forward to the meeting with Niinistö, who replied (siirryt toiseen palveluun), "the feeling is mutual."

Biden's hosting of Niinistö has been widely interpreted in Finland as a sign of American support, especially as the US President has not met with any other heads of state since Russia's attack.

"We'll be discussing the latest developments regarding Russia's war on Ukraine and how to strengthen European security," Biden wrote.

Ahead of the meeting there was intense speculation in Finland about a possible application to join Nato. Public opinion seems to have swung behind the idea, in the wake of Russia's attack on Ukraine, with an Yle poll recording 53 percent support for Nato membership.

Politicians have agreed to discuss the issue to try and find consensus, led by Niinistö.

The Finnish President meanwhile told reporters that there was no such thing as Nato security guarantees during an applicant's bid to join the alliance. He, however, noted that increased security and defence cooperation with the United States boosts Finnish security.

Niinistö also said he didn't believe Russia would respond to Finland's closer defence ties with the US.

"Russia will probably notice and that's not a bad thing," he said.

This week, Yle News' All Points North podcast examined how Russia's attack on Ukraine is impacting Finland.