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Russia-Ukraine War News: Live Updates

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A home destroyed by bombardment in the village of Vilkhivka, near Kharkiv, Ukraine. Russian forces had occupied the village for weeks.


WASHINGTON — Less than three months after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin began his invasion of Ukraine, President Biden vowed Thursday to speed up the pace of joining NATO with Finland and Sweden in an attempt to redraw Europe territory, making it favorable to the West.

In a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson, Biden said he would immediately submit to the Senate the treaty needed to make the two countries the newest members of the alliance language. Formal membership in the alliance also requires the approval of the other 29 member states.

While there is no doubt that the Senate and most other NATO members will overwhelmingly ratify accession to the treaty, Turkey – under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has had a sometimes Close, and sometimes contentious, objections were expressed, which could slow the process and require a negotiated resolution of their concerns.

“Both countries, especially Sweden, are complete breeding grounds for terrorism,” Erdogan said on Thursday, in an apparent reference to what the Turkish leader said was their tacit support for Kurdish separatists.

Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken met his Turkish counterpart in New York on Wednesday, and Finnish officials said they were also in talks with Turkey. Biden’s national security adviser, Jack Sullivan, told reporters on Wednesday that he believed “Turkey’s concerns could be addressed” and that Finland and Sweden would eventually be able to join the coalition.

But Erdogan is known for being unpredictable, and he can easily use his leverage as a potential saboteur to satisfy his demands, including lifting sanctions on his country’s purchase of Russian-made air defenses.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday he wanted to address Turkey’s concerns.

“I am confident that we will quickly make the decision to welcome Sweden and Finland to the NATO family,” he said, adding, “We are addressing the concerns expressed by Turkey.”

Mr. Erdogan’s demands aside, the ceremony at the White House was a remarkable moment in the history of the Western alliance – an event rarely seen in history of a Russian invasion, a change of mood, and possibly NATO’s borders, Happened almost overnight.

Under the deal with the Soviet Union, Finland stayed out of the alliance formed after World War II to contain Russia. It remained independent in the post-Soviet era, even after joining the European Union and growing closer to the West. Until now, Sweden has maintained neutrality for over 200 years.

But that gesture was quickly abandoned after Mr Putin decided in February to invade Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO. Both Finland and Sweden are suddenly aware that the threat from Russia has changed, and their status as bystanders in a great-power conflict is now a huge risk.

The reversal was so quick that the debate that took place after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 barely occurred, when even some of Washington’s most seasoned Cold War diplomats warned that the more Russia felt surrounded, the more it eventually came under fire. The odds are higher, especially if the country’s efforts to integrate with the West fail.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sullivan said Mr. Biden had asked his national security officials if they supported adding Finland and Sweden to the coalition, and they were unanimously “strongly supportive” of the move.

The Rose Garden ceremony deliberately contained echoes of a state visit and was accompanied by a military band. Biden called the move to bring Finland and Sweden into the alliance almost a formality, noting that both countries contributed to the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq — the main NATO commitments of the past 20 years — and that they were strong.” Democracies that meet every NATO requirement, and then some.”

Mr Biden argued that the two countries would increase the coalition’s firepower.

Finland has a sophisticated military that tracks Russian activity in Nordic waters and invests heavily in modern equipment. Sweden is a more difficult example: it has dismantled parts of its military and, as Ms Anderson concedes, must rebalance its budget to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence, a target of NATO members.

But for the U.S., the main use of bringing the Nordic countries to the alliance is to send a message to Putin. In December, the Russian president demanded that the United States and NATO sign a treaty to withdraw troops from the former Soviet state and limit training activities and weapons deployment.

Instead, NATO’s border with Russia will now extend another 810 miles, and NATO’s expanded capabilities will complicate Russia’s defenses.

Putin’s expected reaction was the subject of speculation and planning meetings. The Russian leader and his aides have so far responded calmly, calling the move a mistake and saying they would respond if weapons were placed near Russia’s border.

But Finland and Sweden now see Putin as a far greater threat to their security than Soviet leaders during the Cold War. For Biden, the change in sentiment between the two countries is an opportunity to fundamentally strengthen the transatlantic alliance and weaken Russia while Putin remains in power.

Biden alluded to that goal in comments made at the White House on Thursday — which he didn’t fully articulate. “In recent years, people have become suspicious,” he said. “Does NATO still make sense?”

He said Russia’s invasion proved that it remained “an indispensable alliance in the world we face today” and the side decisions made by Sweden and Finland “demonstrate that commitment”.

“Finland and Sweden have made NATO stronger,” he said, “not only because of their capabilities, but because they are strong, powerful democracies.”

Mr. Biden also issued a statement before Mr. Niinisto and Ms. Anderson’s visit, offering informal security assurances while the two countries waited to formally join the coalition. This is to prevent Russia from taking any intimidation measures — perhaps through cyberattacks, perhaps air or sea exercises — while the countries await membership and the formal protection that comes with them.

But Mr Niinisto mentioned the importance of speed. “Now that we have taken the decisive first step, it is time for NATO allies to get involved,” he said. “We want strong support from all our allies and hope that once an agreement is reached, our members will be ratified quickly.”

He referred directly to Turkey, saying “we are committed to Turkey’s security just as Turkey is committed to our security,” adding, “We take terrorism seriously.” This seemed to allude to Turkey’s commitment to Kurdish militants. worry.

Turning to Mr Biden and laughing that “the Swedes first set foot in your home state of Delaware in 1638”, Ms Anderson said the invasion of Ukraine “reminds us of the darkest days in European history”. She said it was “a watershed moment for Sweden” that forced Swedes to rethink the nature of their security.

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