Pro-NATO group of opposition leaders from Finland and Sweden in DC

A pro-NATO group of opposition leaders from Finland and Sweden was in Washington, DC, this week for meetings with the Biden administration and the Hill, sources familiar with the meetings told CNN.

While in the US capital, the small delegation led by Finland’s Petteri Orpo and Sweden’s Ulf Kristersson met with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Karen Donfried, Amanda Sloat of the National Security Council, a number of staff on Capitol Hill and think tanks including the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund.

Henri Vanhanen, foreign policy adviser to Finland’s center-right party, said they wanted to give the message that Finland and Sweden are contributors to security, they bring something to the table and won’t be a burden by joining NATO as they already have very strong national defense. Vanhanen said this message was well received.

In the joint meetings at State and the NSC, there was common understanding that “security guarantees” are only given to NATO members and that it is up to Sweden and Finland to decide about joining, said a Swedish parliamentary official and Vanhanen, the latter of which noted they are not in a position to negotiate with the US government. However, there was discussion about how to improve overall safety and security, particularly in the interim period between application and accession. This Swedish official familiar said discussion included cyber issues and bigger exercises in the Baltics.

Both nations are aiming to apply by the June NATO summit in Madrid at the latest, the opposition hopes.

Vanhanen said it is a “pragmatic” issue for Finland as it shares a border with Russia and has been at war with them, and said joining the alliance is a question of “when” not “if.”

Officials from Sweden and Finland said there is no doubt that the US Senate would vote to approve their countries’ accessions to NATO. The Senate must approve Sweden and Finland joining NATO by at least a two-thirds vote.

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