Klobuchar: “Finland and Sweden taking the step of NATO membership will not only strengthen their own security, but also strengthen the cause of freedom in Europe and across the world"
Klobuchar was joined by Honorary Consul General of Finland Elaine Kumpula; Honorary Consul General of Sweden Bruce Karstadt; and Swedish Ambassador to the United States Karin Olofsdotter
MINNEAPOLIS - At the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) highlighted her strong support for Finland and Sweden’s plan to join the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance.
“Finland and Sweden taking the step of NATO membership will not only strengthen their own security, but also strengthen the cause of freedom in Europe and across the world,” said Klobuchar. “Sweden and Finland…bring a lot to the table in terms of military help, they bring a lot to the table in terms of cyber help, naval help. So that's what's so exciting for the alliance.”
Klobuchar also emphasized how Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has reinforced the importance of America’s alliance with its European partners: “Because of [Putin’s] actions, the transatlantic bond has never been stronger. Our relationships with democracies around the world, not just in Europe, have strengthened. And people across the globe have come together to say, “We stand with Ukraine.”
Klobuchar was joined at the event by Honorary Consul General of Finland Elaine Kumpula and Honorary Consul General of Sweden Bruce Karstadt. Swedish Ambassador to the United States Karin Olofsdotter also joined virtually. Minnesota has long enjoyed a special connection to both Sweden and Finland. Outside Europe, Minnesota has one of the largest Nordic populations in the world.
Klobuchar has been a staunch champion for strengthening America’s ties to its European allies. This week, she was banned by the Russian government from entering Russia due to her vocal support for Ukraine and democracies across Europe.
Last week, Klobuchar and a bipartisan group of Senators met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to highlight the widespread American support for the two nations’ decision to join NATO.
At a Munich Security Conference panel in February, Klobuchar joined President Niinistö and other international leaders to highlight the importance of U.S.-European unity and cooperation on security challenges, including defending Ukraine and Europe against Russian aggression.
Excerpt from Klobuchar’s remarks as delivered are available below:
…. I also remember growing up when my mom, who was Swiss American, would make Swiss-German stollen, and give that to our neighbor… who would in turn, give us all these Swedish treats. So I think many of us have those experiences growing up in Minnesota.
But all of that is part of our culture, and I think it makes us understand the importance of preserving these two great democracies. And to do that right now, they need to join NATO. And I think a lot of people thought that wasn't going to happen in the past, they were really independent. Coming, especially with Finland with their border on Russia’s border, miles and miles and miles, had relationships, not only with that country, but also of course with Europe and the United States, and the like.
But right now, just like in the United States, Finland and Sweden see this unparalleled moment in history. We are all coming out of a two year plague, out of kind of a slumber civically, to realize how fragile democracy truly is. We see it on Ukraine's front lines, where everyday people take up arms to protect their country. And they literally sent a warning shot in how they did not fold to tyrants across the world who think that democracies are up for grabs. Ukrainians have shown their true colors in vibrant blue and yellow, just like the flag of Sweden we note, and they are showing what true courage is all about.
Having met with President Zelenskyy and all of the Ukrainian military and foreign policy leaders in the last group of Senators who went in there right before the war started. We came back from that trip very much actually impressed by their leadership. And I will be honest, having spoken at the Munich Security Conference a few weeks later, a lot of people underestimated their strength, I think. The word at that conference with all the leaders from all these other nations around the world was like, “Well, it'll probably be only about a week. And then it's gonna be a long, long situation with guerrilla warfare because Russia is just gonna roll right in there.” Well, the Ukrainians have completely proven them wrong. They have lit a moral flame across the world that will not be doused. And time and time again, they have defied the odds. They have done what no one thought possible, and stood against the inhuman barbarism of Vladimir Putin.
Putin believed that the world was so divided and coming out of this pandemic, that we would just let this happen and he could attack a peaceful neighbor without consequence. But the opposite has happened. Because of his actions, the transatlantic bond has never been stronger. Our relationships with democracies around the world, not just in Europe, have strengthened. And people across the globe have come together to say, “We stand with Ukraine.”
One of the most vibrant and memorable moments for me was when Zelensky went out in the streets, just as everyone predicted that they couldn't make it, and just looked at a camera and said, “We are here. We are here.”
And that's what the world's democracies have basically said in putting on the sanctions, in taking boats and yachts all over the world from these oligarchs, in providing significant, significant advice and resources. Everything from our drones, which have been tailor-made, are very good for these situations and switchblade drones, to the stingers to the javelins coming out of our country, to many other weapons coming out of NATO countries. We just voted for $40 billion for humanitarian aid, as well as military aid to Ukraine.
And having returned to the border with Senator Portman and Wicker and Blumenthal, and in Poland, having been there, actually, the night that just only a short about half an hour away, the training facility in Ukraine had been bombed. Dozens of people were killed the night that we were there, and seeing the refugees flowing from nearby Kyiv, who had made that decision just that morning to leave with their suitcases and little kids with only two stuffed animals on their backs. And watching the Polish people take these people into their homes with open arms. Moldova has taken so many refugees in that tiny impoverished country now that it would be as if the U.S. took 13 million refugees in. That's the percentage rate that they're taking in Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. So I think the world has decided that we're not going to just abandon this democracy, that we're gonna stand with it.
So that was a lot of what went into the decision of Sweden and Finland. And the cool thing about Sweden and Finland is they don't just join to help their own security, they bring a lot to the table. They bring a lot to the table in terms of military help, they bring a lot to the table in terms of cyber help, naval help, that a lot of countries in NATO actually don't have. And so that's what's so exciting for the alliance, in terms of Sweden and Finland coming in.
Last Thursday, as I noted, we had our meeting. It couldn't have gone better. Senator Schumer and McConnell were both there pledging their support to get this through our piece of this because the Senate advises and consents on treaties. For some reason, I'm just thinking back to a memory of Jim Oberstar, he would always have this quote. And he would always say, “All this Senate,” he was in the House, right. “All this Senate ever does is confirm judges and ratify treaties. That's all they do.” And I remember seeing it in an article that I was in and I thought, “Oh, no.” And then he had said, “That's all they do, except Amy does more.” But in fact, we don't always ratify treaties or give consent. But I believe this is going to happen quite quickly, when both leaders have pledged their support. Senator McConnell, willing to take on people within his own party who have taken a more isolationist stand, especially in the House of Representatives, when it comes to supporting NATO as a whole. Well, this issue won't come before them because the Senate decides treaties.
By joining NATO, allies have made a sacred commitment to one another that an attack on one is an attack against all. The only time in history that this has been invoked was after 9/11 when the United States was attacked, and all our allies rallied to our side. As Americans, we will never and will never forget that.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated the anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe. And as you know, NATO was formed in the wreckage of World War Two, when President Truman signed the North Atlantic Treaty. He expressed the goal of its founders to preserve their present peaceful situation and to protect it in the future. And for decades, it's been a crucial, crucial part of upholding peace. Now, 77 years later, NATO is important as ever, and I think the decision by these two countries to join is a testament of the continued promise of this great alliance.
These nations, your nations, are committed to peace and stability. I think you know, President Biden has really been leading the charge, rallying the world. And of course, he is more than behind this decision. As Prime Minister, Swedish Prime Minister Andersson said last week, “With Sweden and Finland as members, NATO will also be strong. We are security providers with sophisticated defense capabilities, and we are champions of freedom, democracy and human rights.” As President Niniisto and Prime Minister Marin also said, “NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance.” As we know, Sweden would as well.
These already are our closest partners on a range of issues. They've served shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. and NATO forces in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1994, Sweden and Finland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace Program, strengthening our partnership. Finland and Sweden have partnered together on security in the Baltic Sea region. And in 2018, Finland, Sweden and the U.S. signed a trilateral agreement to deepen defense cooperation and promote security in Northern Europe.
I would be remiss not to mention our great partnership with Norway. Already a member - I see some Norwegians nodding their heads - already a member of NATO. And Minnesota especially, has had a long-term partnership, historic agreement with our National Guard, in terms of training. Both Finland and Sweden are already working in coordination with the U.S., as you know, and our allies to support the Ukrainians. Sweden has responded to Russian bombing maternity hospitals with millions of dollars of support and helmets and body shields, as well as taking in refugees, and as well as helping with funding. Finland has sent military aid including thousands of assault rifles, and thousands of ration packages, and on the humanitarian side has also helped with millions of dollars.
This is going to be a big deal. Finland, after fighting its own territorial wars with the Soviet Union, has a reserve force of 900,000 strong. Sweden has built its own fighter jets, and both countries recently announced upcoming expansion and reform of their militaries.
As the Arctic region, which holds increasing importance for the U.S. and European security, is seeing encroachments from Russia and China. Sweden and Finland are also poised, and have been very helpful to help NATO confront these challenges.
So for all these reasons, my full support is here for Sweden and Finland entering NATO. We know we have all witnessed the bravery, as I mentioned, of the Ukrainians. We all stand with them. Finland and Sweden taking the step of NATO membership will not only strengthen their own security, but also strengthen the cause of freedom in Europe and across the world. So thank you very much. And I think we're going to hear from some of our friends here. We're especially honored that our Finnish consul is here, as well as we're going to be hearing from the Ambassador of Sweden, who's very well liked in Washington DC, as well as Mikko couldn't be here but the Finnish ambassador, they're two of the most sort of friendly and hospitable ambassadors around.