HELSINKI — President Joe Biden concluded his European tour on Wednesday with a visit to Finland, marking the first US presidential trip to the country since Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin five years ago. The visit comes amid Finland’s recent decision to join NATO, abandoning its historic military non-alignment.
As President Biden made his way to the bilateral meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, onlookers captured the moment on their cellphones along the route through Helsinki. The crowd swelled near the train station, with lines stretching hundreds of yards along the sidewalks. Some individuals waved small American flags.
Security was tight, with police officers stationed on almost every corner and traffic completely cleared for the president’s motorcade.
At precisely 1:04 pm, President Biden’s motorcade arrived at the presidential palace. The press pool entered a room known as the Salon Room at 1:14 pm, where President Biden, President Niinisto, and their respective aides sat at a table adorned with a white tablecloth.
The two delegations faced each other, engaging in an initial exchange. President Niinisto remarked on “a new era in our security,” expressing admiration for the unity fostered during the NATO summit in Vilnius. He jokingly mentioned the warm reception President Biden had received on the streets of Helsinki.
President Biden reciprocated the sentiment, stating, “It’s a delight to be here. It’s my second visit.” Regarding Finland’s NATO membership request, he enthusiastically responded, “It took me about three seconds to say yes.” Biden commended Finland on the swift ratification process, hailing the country as an “incredible asset” to NATO. He emphasized the shared values between the United States and Finland, asserting that NATO had never been stronger.
“We stand together for shared democratic values,” President Biden affirmed, receiving agreement from President Niinisto, who added, “We have to stick together.”
During a question-and-answer session with journalists, inquiries were raised regarding the possibility of peace in Ukraine while Putin remained in power, as well as the hacking of US government emails. However, President Biden did not provide a response.