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Biden made the comments at the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2022, as Scandanivian countries Sweden and Finland seek membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in reaction to the Ukraine war.
“The actions taken by Putin were an attempt, to use my phrase, to Finlandize all of Europe, make it all neutral,” Biden said, using a term that refers to Findland’s neutrality during the Cold War. “Instead, he NATOizeded all of Europe.”
President Joe Biden speaks about his administration’s global COVID-19 vaccination efforts ahead of the G-7 summit, Thursday, June 10, 2021, in St. Ives, England. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (AP)
Biden touted that his administration’s foreign policy is “built around the power of working together with allies and partners.” He further told the graduating midshipmen that even as they use the most advanced weapons in the world, “the most powerful tool that you wield is our unmatched network of global alliances… which since I got elected, I’ve been trying to reestablish in detail.”
Most western countries are joining the United States in imposing severe sanctions on Russia. And Russia is significantly more isolated from the globe than it was before the war started, with Europe particularly united against Putin’s expansionism and moving toward the U.S. and NATO.
The most significant movement in that direction since the start of the war were the decisions by Sweden and Finland itself to apply for NATO membership. The countries still must go through an approval process before they’re officially part of NATO, but the move – particularly by Finland which shares a long border with Russia – underscores the level to which countries are coalescing against the treat posed by Russia.
“Putin’s brutal, brutal war in Ukraine, not only is he trying to take over Ukraine, he’s really trying to wipe out the culture and identity of Ukrainian people,” Biden told the Naval Academy graduating class Friday, raising his voice in outrage. “Attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums with no other purpose than eliminate a culture, a direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rule-based international order. That’s what you’re graduating into.”