President Joe Biden says that Finland and Sweden have the "full, total, complete backing" of the US for their application to join NATO amid resistance from Turkey.
Biden made the remarks on Thursday as Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö are in Washington to discuss their historic bids to join NATO.
The Nordic countries submitted their applications on Wednesday to be part of the alliance, despite opposition by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said the two countries continue to lend support to terrorist groups against his country.
Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, has accused Sweden, and to some extent Finland, of providing sanctuary to elements linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt.
Both groups are considered “terrorist” groups by Turkey. The PKK is also on the “terrorist” lists of the US and the EU.
Biden, who spoke alongside Niinisto and Andersson at the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, said, "Let me be clear: new members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation."
"The bottom line is simple, quite straightforward," Biden said, adding, "Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger, not just because of their capacity, but because of their strong democracies and a strong united NATO is the foundation of America's security."
Their applications are "a watershed moment in European security," the US president said, noting, he was sending paperwork to Congress Thursday to facilitate ratification of their bids.
In the United States, new NATO memberships require legislation to pass in Congress with a two-thirds majority.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has voiced the bloc’s readiness to defend Finland and Sweden in the event of a Russian attack even before the two countries become NATO members.
Finland and Sweden have formally applied to join NATO, following a Russian military offensive against Ukraine and despite Russian warnings against the US-led military alliance’s eastward expansion. All 30 NATO members should unanimously agree for the two historically neutral countries to join the alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said their potential membership in NATO poses no direct threat to his country but Moscow will respond if the US-led alliance bolsters military infrastructure in the two Nordic states.