HELSINKI — President Biden is wrapping up his five-day, three country trip to Europe with a stop in Finland, where he has hailed the newest member of the NATO alliance and will confer with Nordic leaders. The trip drew a sharp contrast with the visit by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who had a private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin here in 2018.
For Biden, the stop caps a busy foreign excursion in which he has sought to rally global partners around a shared vision for supporting Ukraine against Russia and bolstering NATO, while also making a case for his broader foreign policy approach ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.
“Together we’re standing for shared democratic values,” Biden said Thursday during a meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, calling Finland’s accession to NATO “the fastest ratification that occurred in modern history.”
Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia, joined NATO in April after decades of embracing a policy of military nonalignment. In recent months, Biden has repeatedly cited Finland’s decision to join NATO as proving that Putin had miscalculated by invading Ukraine last year.
“Putin was making a mistake. He was looking for the Finlandization of NATO,” Biden said earlier this week during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “He got the NATOization of Finland.”
Biden’s events Thursday will take place at the Presidential Palace, the same venue where Trump and Putin held their meetings in mid-July some five years earlier.
During his 2018 news conference, Trump appeared to side with Putin over his own intelligence community, declaring that the Russian president “was extremely strong and powerful” in his denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen remarked to The Washington Post that Biden’s trip showcases the unpredictability of global politics and served as a reminder for Europe about the need to boost its own defenses.
“Wow, how the world has changed in five years,” she said in an interview, adding that the ongoing active war in Europe makes Biden’s meetings here feel particularly urgent. “Let’s put it this way, the setting today and the meeting today is much more pleasant to host, obviously, than what was five years ago.”
In addition to meeting with Niinistö, Biden will participate in a summit with the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark.
Coming out of the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in which Biden celebrated forward progress on Sweden’s bid to join the alliance and announced a new security program to support Ukraine, the president’s stop in Helsinki was expected to be a less dramatic affair, Valtonen said.
“I look forward to this day’s meeting being more of a sort of family gathering rather than rigid negotiations because there are so many things that we agree on,” she said, adding that leaders planned to discuss security, technology, the environment and more.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden’s meeting with Nordic leaders would allow the president to engage with “some of our best and most stalwart partners.”
“And this will really be an opportunity to look at the larger strategic picture, well beyond just the Nordic area or even the Euro-Atlantic area, because these countries are players on significant economic, technological, and security issues globally,” he said earlier this week.
Biden plans to end his trip with a joint news conference alongside Niinistö, before returning to Washington on Thursday evening.