President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Swedish Ambassador to the U.S., Karin Olofsdotter, and Finnish Ambassador to the U.S., Mikko Hautala, giving the United States’ approval for Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO. Hannah Foslien/White House
Photo Caption & Credits

World: Europe

Sept. 2, 2022

Biden Signs Ratification for Finland and Sweden to Join NATO

By Abraham Mahshie

The mood was festive in the packed East Room of the White House on Aug. 9 as President Joe Biden signed the instruments of ratification for the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO.

The two High North nations had up until months ago remained unaligned and fiercely independent, Biden said, until Russia’s aggression against Ukraine spurred public support for NATO entry.

“I think it’s a pretty big day,” Biden said with a wide smile as he welcomed the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden to the United States to his side to witness the signing.

The President’s signing came after the Senate voted 95-1 on Aug. 3 to approve a resolution ratifying the two countries’ entry into NATO.

Biden invited Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to visit the White House on May 19 to set the stage for an invitation by all 30 NATO countries at the Madrid NATO summit in June.

“Putin thought he could break us apart when this all started,” Biden said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to divide the alliance with hybrid warfare tactics including misinformation and cutting off vital gas access to parts of Europe.

Putin also warned that, should NATO assets be positioned in Finland and Sweden, he would respond in kind.

“He believed he could break us apart, in my view, weaken our resolve,” Biden said. “Instead, he’s getting exactly what he did not want. He wanted the Finland-ization of NATO. But he’s getting the NATO-ization of Finland, along with Sweden.”

The United States becomes the 23rd country to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s entries into NATO. Remaining NATO partners required to finalize the process include the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Russia-ally Hungary, and disruptor Turkey, which made demands to both ascending countries before allowing the process to continue.

Turkey sells arms to Ukraine, including the unmanned aerial system Bayraktar, which has proven vital to Ukraine’s efforts to destroy Russian tank columns and armored vehicles. Turkey purchased the S-400 missile system from Russia, resulting in its banishment from the F-35 program.

Before Turkey allowed Finland’s and Sweden’s invitations to proceed, Turkish President Recep Erdogan demanded that Finland and Sweden extradite alleged Kurdish terrorists to Turkey, and an agreement was signed between the three parties in Madrid on June 28 to explore the accusations.

None of the remaining hurdles or past contention were mentioned at the White House signing ceremony, only how the two new members would strengthen U.S. security.

“We’re going to be better able to meet the new challenges of a changed European security environment with two strong, reliable, highly capable new allies in the High North,” Biden said, noting how the U.S. and Allies have enhanced deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank.

Both Finland and Sweden participate in multilateral NATO exercises with longtime NATO member Norway, while all three Nordic countries have chosen to fly the F-35.

In a Senior Enlisted Leader International Summit outside Washington, D.C., this month, Sweden briefed 65 participating countries and NATO on how it conducts agile combat employment, or the use of remote bases, in the Arctic. A Finnish defense official similarly told Air Force Magazine that Finland works closely with the U.S. Air Force on developing the ACE concept for the Arctic.

Finland has a 900-mile border with Russia and brings much experience in the realm of defending against hybrid warfare and operating within Russia’s anti-access and area denial bubble.

“Seeking to join NATO, Finland and Sweden are making a sacred commitment that an attack against one is an attack against all,” Biden said, referring to Article 5 of the NATO treaty. “We see all too clearly how NATO remains an indispensable alliance for the world of today and the world of tomorrow.”                             

B-52s Land at RAF Fairford for Bomber Task Force Mission 

A B-52 on approach into RAF Fairford, England, in August. This is the second time B-52s have flown from Minot AFB to RAF Fairford this year. Senior Airman Jason Cochran

By Greg Hadley

Multiple B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., arrived at RAF Fairford, England, on Aug. 18 as part of a bomber task force mission in Europe, U.S. Air Forces in Europe announced.

“These bomber task force missions across Europe provide a great opportunity to improve our combined readiness, promote interoperability and demonstrate our global power projection alongside our Allies,” Gen. James  B. Hecker, commander of USAFE-AFAFRICA, said in a statement. “Our ultimate strength in the European area of operations is a joint-force lethality—our ability to train and operate with our Allies and partners as one layered, capable and credible combat team.”

Flying into Fairford, the B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing got a quick start on that training with allies, integrating with fighters from Norway and Sweden.

For Sweden, in particular, the integration marks another milestone as the country continues to progress toward NATO membership.

“Witnessing our nation’s Gripen fighter aircraft flying alongside several of America’s most powerful military aircraft visually depicts the strength and solidarity of NATO,” Maj. Gen. Carl-Johan Edström, commander of the Swedish Air Force, said in a statement. “These moments truly capture the military power that exists within NATO—as individual nations, but, more importantly, as a unified Alliance.”

Media reports in the United Kingdom noted four of the iconic bombers landing at Fairford, garnering considerable attention from locals.

“Our strategic bomber missions demonstrate our always ready, global strike capability,” Lt. Col. Ryan Loucks, 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron BTF commander. “The B-52 remains a universally recognized symbol of America’s assurances to our Allies and partners.”

This marks the second time this year B-52s from Minot have flown to RAF Fairford for a bomber task force mission. In February, four of the bombers arrived in Europe. Prior to that, B-1B bombers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, deployed to RAF Fairford in November 2021.

RAF Fairford is the only forward operating location for U.S. bombers in Europe, so bomber task forces are usually based from there, with the aircraft flying missions across the continent and sometimes farther in a projection of U.S. air power and as an opportunity for aircrews to integrate with allies and partners.

This most recent BTF marks the first one the Air Force has announced since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, raising security concerns across the region and leading NATO to significantly increase its air policing and air shielding missions along its eastern flank. USAFE’s release on the mission made no mention of Russia, and it is unclear if the B-52s will fly over Eastern Europe during their time in the region.