“We normally don’t begin wars,” President Sauli Niinisto of Finland mentioned because the leaders spoke amid the battle in Ukraine.
WASHINGTON — When President Biden met within the Oval Workplace on Friday afternoon with Sauli Niinisto, the president of the impartial however more and more nervous Finland, Mr. Biden tried to place his visitor comfortable with a bit of banter recalling one thing that Barack Obama as soon as mentioned.
“President Obama used to say, ‘We’d be all proper if we left every thing to the Nordic international locations,’ Mr. Biden recalled. “Every part could be effective.”
Mr. Niinisto nodded, and replied, “Nicely, we normally don’t begin wars.”
It was an trade that captured how diplomacy has modified up to now 9 days, for the reason that Russian invasion of Ukraine rocked the way in which Europeans talked about Russia. Earlier than that, President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia was an unpredictable pressure to be managed, particularly for a nation like Finland, which was dominated by Russia for a lot of the 19th century, till the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Now, the nation liable for the term Finlandization, a Chilly Struggle expression that’s not recalled fondly by the Finns, is rethinking its relationship with Washington, NATO and the West. Its streets are a mixture of Nordic and European cultures, its politics more and more tilted to the West. The invasion of Ukraine has made it contemplate critically, for the primary time, whether or not it must be a member of NATO.
However of their transient public look collectively — throughout which each leaders expressed a want to strengthen what Mr. Niinisto referred to as the “long-lasting partnership” between their international locations — neither one talked about the potential of Finland becoming a member of the Western alliance. That appeared deliberate. Even when the Finns determined to attempt to make the leap to full NATO membership — which nonetheless appears a attain — determining how they’d transfer from their present neutrality to formal membership is past tough.
The issue, as one European diplomat mentioned, is the interval of vulnerability between the time Finland would declare its curiosity in changing into a full NATO member and the time it got here beneath the safety of the alliance, and its Article V assurance that an assault on one is an assault on all. The diplomat spoke on situation of anonymity to relay personal discussions.
Simply because the invasion of Ukraine started, the spokeswoman for the Russian international ministry, Maria Zakharova, warned that any such transfer would carry “severe military-political repercussions.” Nobody was fairly sure what that meant, however after the brutal scenes of the invasion of Ukraine, they clearly don’t wish to discover out.
On the White Home, Jen Psaki, the press secretary, was studiously ambiguous.
Requested if Mr. Biden desires Finland to affix NATO, Ms. Psaki mentioned, “That may be as much as leaders of Finland and the NATO alliance to find out.”