Secretary Blinken And Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto At Joint Press Availability

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It’s wonderful to be able to host my colleague and friend, the Foreign Minister of Finland, here at the State Department in the Benjamin Franklin Room. Our partnership, the partnership between Finland and the United States, has been rooted deeply in our shared values of democracy, of human rights, rule of law and a shared commitment to strengthening the international rules-based order. We’re collaborating on virtually every pressing challenge of our time. As a result, there’s always a lot to discuss when we get together, and we probably could have spent another hour talking about the many things that we’re working on.

But today, of course, we focused a great deal on Finland’s recent application to join NATO. The United States fully supports Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance, and I continue to be confident that both countries will soon be NATO Allies. Finland and Sweden more than meet NATO’s democratic, military, economic criteria for membership. They’re committed to upholding NATO’s sacred Article 5 guarantee: an attack on one is an attack on all. And both countries have a proven track record of honoring their commitments.

Since 2014, Finland has been an enhanced opportunities partner of NATO and maintains a high degree of interoperability with the Alliance. In plain English that means that our militaries work together seamlessly, and the country brings specific military expertise and capabilities in the high north and the Baltic Sea.

But it’s not just Finland’s military capabilities that will make NATO stronger, but its free and open democratic society. Indeed, we see that in the way that Finland decided to apply for NATO in the first place. The move was driven by strong public support. According to recent polls, three-in-four Finns want their country to join the Alliance. Finnish people, press, and politicians debated the prospect openly. And when the country’s democratically elected parliament put the issue to a vote, 188 out of 200 members supported applying for membership. That is what a democratic process looks like.

The decisions by Finland and Sweden continue the trend that we’ve seen since President Putin launched his war of aggression in which he failed to achieve a single one of his strategic aims. Instead of ending Ukraine’s independence, President Putin has strengthened it. Instead of asserting Russia’s strength, he’s undermined it. Instead of dividing NATO, he’s united it and now pushed more countries to apply to join.

Finland and Sweden’s applications also reaffirm NATO’s “Open Door” policy which has been a cornerstone of the Alliance since its very founding. That door will stay open, reflecting our belief that every country should have the right to choose its allies and partners and to pursue membership if it chooses. That is not a provocation or a threat to Russia. We say this often, but it bears repeating: NATO is and always will be a defensive Alliance. NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia, but rather we aim to prevent it.

The reason that more countries want to join NATO is simple: They have seen the Russian Federation repeatedly attack its neighbors without provocation. And so not unreasonably, they’re concerned that they could be next. The only countries that have anything to fear from NATO are those that plan to attack one of the Allies. As President Biden made clear last week in his meeting with the Finnish president, during the accession process the United States and our Finnish partners will remain vigilant against threats to our shared security, and we will work together to deter and confront any aggression. The same holds true for Sweden.

The United States will also maintain our robust exercise activity and presence in the Baltic Sea region.

So simply put, Finland can depend on us, and I’m confident that we can depend on Finland. The trust is built on experience. We’ve collaborated for decades on the Arctic Council working together to advance a peaceful region where cooperation prevails on climate, on the environment, on science and safety, and where sustainable economic development benefits the local population.

For years, Finnish troops have served shoulder to shoulder with U.S. and NATO forces in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, in Iraq. Together, we cofounded the European Center for Excellence for countering hybrid threats, which Finland hosts. And since February 24, we’ve been closely aligned in our response to Moscow’s war of aggression against Ukraine. We’ve repeatedly voted together to condemn Russia’s unjust invasion in the UN General Assembly and, of course, in the Human Rights Council, where we voted together to suspend Russia. We’ve worked together to impose costs on the Russian Government and its proxies for this unjust war and the atrocities they are committing.

As a member of the European Union, Finland has helped craft and support EU sanctions which were closely coordinated with and complementary to our own. Earlier this week, Finland joined more than 60 countries that have signed on to a roadmap to tackle the growing global food security crisis, which has been significantly worsened by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Pekka and I talked about this at some length in our conversations both with regard to Ukraine and more generally what we can do and what we will do together to address this crisis around the globe.

Finland has also stepped up to provide security assistance and non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian Government. The Government is committed to take in some 23,000 refugees, and Finnish universities have opened thousands of spots for Ukrainian students fleeing the war. Finnish schools have opened thousands of chairs to younger Ukrainians, and we’re grateful for that incredible response.

One final point. Squarely focused as we are today on how NATO can defend members against further Russian aggression, this alliance is also critical for protecting our shared security and values from other threats, including emerging challenges like cyber-attacks, infectious disease, a warming climate. That’s yet another reason that we look forward to being able to call Finland and Sweden our allies and draw upon their leadership in the years ahead.

So Pekka, we’re already working so closely together, but I suspect that will become even closer with you as we deepen what is already a vital partnership between Finland and the United States. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAAVISTO: Thank you. And first I want to thank Secretary of State Mr. Blinken, my good friend Tony, for this opportunity of to again meet here in Washington and discuss and exchange views in today’s meeting. I think we had an excellent discussion.

We highly value our close cooperation between Finland and the United States. As discussed today, we look forward to further deepening our bilateral engagement and continuing our close consultations on key foreign and security policy questions.

The main topics today were the security situation in Europe, Finland’s NATO membership application, and the war in Ukraine. First a couple of words about our application. Finland submitted on May 18th, at the same time with Sweden, our application for NATO membership. Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership is based on a comprehensive, democratic process and strong support from the people. Finland’s accession to NATO would strengthen the security and stability of Northern Europe as well as wider transatlantic security. Finland is a security provider and would further strengthen NATO as an Ally. We are very grateful for the unwavering and strong support from the United States for our NATO membership bid. We look forward to taking our excellent relationship to a new level as a NATO Ally.

Turkey has raised questions in conjunction with Finland’s and Sweden’s membership applications. It is understandable that different issues may be raised by different allies along the process. Finland has been in active contact with Turkey – I have been visiting Turkey twice this spring – at different levels regarding our NATO membership bid. We wish to continue our constructive dialogue with allies and are ready to continue discussing the outstanding issues with Turkey. We take every NATO members’ concerns seriously. With Turkey we are now in an open, direct, and constructive dialogue process to clarify all issues. This is important.

We highly appreciate the strong support from the allies along the process. We also hope for a swift ratification of our membership once the accession protocol has been signed.

Then a couple of words about Russia and Ukraine. Finland strongly condemns the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. We continue to urge Russia to stop the military actions immediately. We are strongly supporting Ukraine both nationally and through the European Union. Finland’s support to Ukraine includes humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, and material and arms assistance. Ordinary Finns have also shown great solidary with Ukraine and Ukrainians who have fled to Finland, as mentioned by Tony.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is an attack against the entire European security order. It’s a great breach of international law and a violation of the Charter of the United Nations. Russia is flagrantly violating international law in Ukraine. We need to ensure accountability for war crimes. Finland supports the investigation by the International Criminal Court, ICC, by granting financial support and by seconding experts.

The EU and the United States have shown extraordinary speed, determination, and unity as a response to Russia’s actions, including extensive sanctions. Sanctions have been powerful and hit Russia hard. I wish to thank the United States for an exceptional collaboration. Finland is ready to move forward with new sanctions and to consider all options, including energy. New EU sanctions package is being prepared.

Our multilateral fora, Finland – on multilateral fora, Finland continues its close cooperation with partners and is actively discussing the key matters, for example, global food security, as discussed, and has been raised by United States. We also thank the United States for active global outreach. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us this afternoon. We will now take a question from each side, beginning with Shannon from ABC News.

QUESTION: Thank you. On expanding NATO, have you seen any progress towards getting Turkey onboard? And what are you willing to do – what demands are you willing to satisfy – in order to move that process along?

Also, secondly, Mr. Secretary, you spoke with your Ukrainian counterpart today about security assistance. Is supplying American long-range missile systems on the table?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. I think as you heard from the Foreign Minister, Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey to address some of the concerns that it raised. We’re also talking to Turkey. I saw the Turkish Foreign Minister in New York about a week ago, and those conversations continue.

I don’t want to characterize the conversations beyond saying that, first, there is a very strong consensus in NATO for the admission of Finland and Sweden, and I remain confident that we will work through this process swiftly and that things will move forward with both countries. As Pekka said, it is a process. In that process, countries raise concerns that they may have. We work through them; that’s what Finland and Sweden are doing right now with Turkey, and I’m confident that this will move forward.

With regard to security assistance to Ukraine, yes, I spoke to my counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, this morning. We speak regularly, and this is a constant conversation about the – among other things, the needs that Ukraine has to make sure that it has in hand what it needs to deal with the Russian aggression as well as, ultimately, to strengthen the hand that it will have at any negotiating table that emerges in the future. And that’s a constant process.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin set up what I think is a very effective mechanism when he brought about 40 countries together at Ramstein, Germany a couple of weeks ago. So there’s now an active contact group bringing all these countries together to focus the assistance that Ukraine needs and to make sure that countries are doing what they need to do to provide it. I’m not going to get ahead of that process, including with future deliveries of assistance. All of that is in train and will unfold in the days and weeks ahead.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAAVISTO: Maybe from our side, first just to mention our prime minister, Sanna Marin, visited two days ago Kyiv and also Bucha and, of course, was shocked what they saw there and all the destruction. And Finland is committed to continue supporting Ukraine and we have been also sending the little packages to Ukraine. The military support to Ukraine is very important at this moment.

In regarding Turkey, our delegations visit actually Wednesday both from Sweden and Finland. Turkey had a – good negotiations there, long negotiations, agreed to continue those talks, and of course, we rely on NATO “Open Door” policy, which is also supported by Turkey, and we think that these problems can be solved that – which Turkey has been raising. And it’s probably very important that some results could be achieved before the Madrid summit, which is an important moment for NATO and also for us as applicant countries, in the end of June.

MODERATOR: Next we’ll turn to Laura from Finnish MTV News.

QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, so what concretely the United States is going to do with Turkey so that they would accept Finland joining NATO? And what would be the timeline for this? Do you believe that would really happen before the Madrid summit?

And similar question to Minister Haavisto. Is it really possible that this could happen before the Madrid summit? And did you receive any concrete promises what the United States could do to help Finland in this process with Turkey?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. So again, in the first instance, the most important thing is that Finland and Sweden are speaking directly to and with Turkey, and working through some of the concerns that Turkey has raised and finding ways to address them. We very much support that process; as I mentioned, we’re engaged with Turkey directly as well. But the focus is on the work that Finland, Sweden, and Turkey are doing together to address the concerns.

And again, as I said, I’m confident this is going to move forward. As Pekka alluded to a moment ago, we do have the NATO summit coming up in a few weeks, and our full expectation is that this process will move as we head into the summit as well as at the summit itself.

So again, beyond that I’m not going to get into the specifics. But there’s an ongoing, very active conversation between Finland, Sweden, and Turkey that we’ll support in any way that we can. I suspect NATO will do so as well.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAAVISTO: Thank you for the question. Actually, a couple of weeks ago I participated in Berlin the NATO ministerial meeting. We were invited by – both Sweden and Finland – there by German host and NATO hosts. And I have to say that when we had this roundtable discussion about Finnish and Swedish membership, which that day had not yet been decided in our parliament but already could guess what is coming, we got extraordinary support from majority of the NATO members, very open support. And it looked like countries are competing who will ratify first the applications. And of course, that was a very positive signal to us.

At the same time, countries have the right to raise concerns. Turkey has raised some concerns regarding the PKK issue, terrorist issues, and so forth. The PKK is a forbidden organization in Finland. We are part of those solutions in the European Union, where terrorist organizations are listed. It’s the same in Sweden and so forth, and these are the answers that we are giving, of course, in this case to Turkey. We, of course, hope that the process goes smoothly and rapidly because this – what we call the grey zone between the – putting the application in and finally getting approved as NATO members, of course, includes some security concerns. We have got extraordinary strong assurances from countries like U.S., UK, and many others during this period, but, of course, it’s not the same as the NATO Article 5 security guarantees, and that’s why we would hope that this process goes smoothly and rapidly.

MODERATOR: That concludes our press conference for today. Thank you for joining us.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.