HELSINKI — After a NATO summit that threatened to burst into divisions, President Joe Biden welcomes praise from the newest member of the transatlantic defense pact and a future addition.
“The way you created unity among the allies, that was great,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told Biden in Helsinki on Thursday. At a meeting of Nordic leaders, he greeted Biden as “Mr. President, dear Joe.
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden said: “Recently I have met you more than I have met my own family. I like it a lot.” Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance was reignited this week after Turkey overruled its objections on the eve of a NATO summit in Lithuania.
Biden wrapped up his symbolic five-day European trip to Finland, a Nordic country that shares an 830-mile border with Russia and abandoned decades of diplomatic neutrality in April when he became the 31st member of the NATO security alliance.
“We stand at an inflection point in history where the decisions we make now are going to determine the course of history for the next four or five, six decades,” Biden said at a press conference. at the presidential palace. “This week, we affirmed how Finland and the United States, along with their allies and partners, are working closely together to put us on a stronger, safer, and more secure path.”
Five years ago, former President Donald Trump stood in the same palace for a more than two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, without notes, after which he suggested that Putin was more credible than the leader of the American intelligence.
More recently, Trump has called for a quick end to the war in Ukraine — in stark contrast to Biden, who has repeatedly affirmed his administration’s long-term support for Ukraine.
But even as Biden pledged this week to strengthen Kiev’s defenses in its war against Russia, he has ruled out a path to Ukraine’s NATO membership as long as the war continues and with reforms yet to be enacted.
On the eve of his meeting with Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lashed out at “vague formulations on ‘conditions'” in a draft NATO statement.
NATO first offered Ukraine a promise of future membership more than 15 years ago, a statement that weighed on the Vilnius summit in Lithuania, a former Soviet state once hidden behind the Iron Curtain and today only 30 miles from Belarus, a country still under Moscow’s influence.
All tensions had publicly eased when Biden and Zelenskyy met with other leaders to announce a framework for countries to negotiate individual security agreements with Ukraine outside of NATO parameters.
Asked about Zelenskyy’s concerns about the timing of NATO membership, Biden replied, “He doesn’t care about it now.”
“One thing that Zelenskyy understands now is whether or not he is in NATO now is irrelevant as long as he has the commitments,” Biden told reporters in Vilnius.
In Finland, a country whose recent history is a reminder of how political conditions can change over time, Biden underscored the stakes of what he called a much larger battle.
“Our allies and partners around the world understand that this fight is not just a fight for the future Ukraine; it is about sovereignty, security and freedom itself,” Biden said in Helsinki. “Think of what would have happened if we had done nothing. What is likely to happen in the rest of Europe if we do nothing?
Yet Biden could soon face questions about the American public’s appetite for a war in Ukraine that has cost tens of billions of dollars and depleted American artillery stockpiles.
Biden worked for nearly 30 minutes on a rope of US Embassy staff and families before boarding Air Force One – then tripped over one of the steps while climbing into the ‘plane.
The moment was a small reminder of the grueling demands of the job as Biden embarks on a closely watched re-election bid; he would be 86 at the end of his second term if he won.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com