OLYMPIA, Wash. — The President of the Republic of Finland visited the Washington State Capitol Monday morning, as his visit marks the countries intention to join the North Atlanic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Finland President Sauli Niinistö addressed a joint session of the Washington State Legislature, explaining why Finland hopes to join NATO in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In 2022, Finnish leaders said they were in favor of rapidly joining NATO, which would pave the way for a historic expansion of the organization and represent a blow to Russian forces in Ukraine.
"In December 2021, when the President of Russia demanded that NATO must not expand eastward, we in Finland knew what it was about," Niinistö said in his address. "He sought to re-establish spheres of influence. And by so doing, he wanted to limit also our right to choose our own alliances. We could not let him do that."
Niinistö's visit to Washinton state included a greeting with Gov. Jay Inlsee and an address to the legislature.
Inslee visited Finland during a trade mission to the Nordic countries in September 2022, as the two sides continued their partnership. On the trip, the Washington state delegation discussed Finland's strategy to eliminate and repurpose waste with Finnish officials at the VTT Technical Research Centre and learned how heat from Microsoft data centers is replacing fossil fuels in district heating. Washington state officials also watched a demonstration of Finland's advances in alternative fuels for maritime shipping.
"Finland's bright thinking, sustainable innovation, and present equanimity inspire the world," Inslee said. "President Niinistö said recently that the 'cold face of war is visible' on his continent. Finland has not wavered. It was my honor to be received by the president in Finland last September, and it is again my honor to welcome him to Olympia to discuss our partnership."
In 2021, Finland and Washington state signed a Memorandum of Understanding to "deepen our economic ties." The memorandum between the two parties will be in effect until 2026.
"We are working to accelerate our cooperation in crucial fields of the future: that is high technology and green transition," Niinistö said. "I hope that this visit can also serve to take this work forward."
The Finland president is scheduled for a five-day tour in the United States with his visit to Washington state.