Biden told AP that Putin wanted the Finlandization of NATO by invading Ukraine.
Putin instead got the “NATO-ization of Finland,” the president said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led Finland to break from a long history of neutrality and pursue NATO membership.
President Joe Biden in a new interview with the Associated Press said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of preventing NATO expansion by invading Ukraine backfired.
“The reason Putin said he was going to go in was because he didn’t want them to join NATO,” Biden said. “He wanted the sort of the Finlandization of NATO. He got the NATO-ization of Finland, instead.”
Finlandization is a term that refers to the state of relations between Finland and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. During that era, Finland agreed to remain neutral and militarily non-aligned in return for the USSR, its dominating neighbor, pledging not to invade. The Finns and Soviets fought a short but brutal war during World War II known as the Winter War, which saw Finland lose a significant chunk of its territory. Finland wanted to avoid another invasion and maintain its sovereigtny, which is why it agreed to remain neutral. That said, Moscow had a significant influence over Helsinki’s politics over the course of that period.
Finland became a NATO partner country after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but stopped short of pursuing full membership. But Russia’s unprovoked war of Ukraine rapidly changed that, and Finland — alongside Sweden, another historically neutral country — has moved to join NATO. The alliance is now working to add the Nordic countries to its ranks, but objections from Turkey have stalled the process. Any decisions on NATO enlargement require unanimous agreement from all current members, who pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all.
In the lead-up to the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin demanded that the West agree to various security guarantees. This included permanently barring Ukraine and Georgia — another former Soviet republic Russia has invaded in recent history — from joining NATO. The alliance firmly rejected this demand, maintaining that its open-door policy was non-negotiable.
Finland and Sweden pursuing NATO membership is one of the more significant examples of the ways in which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has backfired on Putin.
But that does not mean the war has not also been tough on the West, which rapidly came together to impose tough sanctions on Moscow in response to the invasion. The economic fallout from the conflict has raised questions as to whether the Western alliance can maintain the political will to continue its support for Kyiv and penalties against Moscow.
The war has caused a global oil crisis, and the rising gas prices — on top of high inflation — have placed pressure on Biden with midterms on the horizon late this year. But in the interview with the Associated Press, the president said that the consequences of supporting Kyiv were worth it.
“Gasoline went up…$1.25 right off the bat” when “Putin’s war started,” Biden said, adding “I made it clear with helping Ukraine, and organizing NATO to help Ukraine, that this was going to cost. There was going to be a price to pay for it.”
“This is not going to be cost-free” Biden said, but added that “the option of doing nothing was worse” and would have sowed “chaos in Europe.”
“What happens if the strongest power, NATO, an organizational structure we put together, walked away from Russian aggression of over 100,000 troops marching across a border to try to, to occupy and wipe out a culture of an entire people? What, then, then what happens? What happens next? What do we do next?” Biden said, suggesting that if the West had not stepped up then it would’ve raised the chances of Russia targeting other countries in the region.
Biden also suggested standing by as Russia invaded would’ve sent dangerous signals to China about Taiwan, as well as North Korea in terms of its nuclear ambitions.
“I’ve done foreign policy my whole career. I’m convinced that if we let Russia roll and Putin roll, he wouldn’t stop,” Biden said.
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