OLYMPIA, Wash. – The President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, began a five-day visit to the United States on Monday with a historic address to Washington’s State Legislature. In doing so, he became the first foreign head of state to make such an address.
Finland’s President Arrives For Address
The Finnish Choral Society of Seattle and Gov. Jay Inslee welcomed President Niinistö at the Capitol in Olympia. He was then accompanied to the Senate chamber by a group of lawmakers, where he gave his address.
President Niinistö expressed gratitude to the American people for supporting Finland’s application for NATO membership and for their ongoing support for Ukraine, over a year after Russia’s invasion of that country. His words, “The Ukrainians have the right to live in peace and independence in their own country,” drew applause from the State Legislature.
Russia – Ukraine
Niinistö spent a great deal of time addressing the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine., saying, “We can’t forget that if an autocratic system would win somewhere, it never stops.” He explained that Russia’s opposition to NATO expansion was a key contributor to his government’s decision to apply for formal NATO membership. Finland shares an 832 mile border with Russia, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns that Russia could someday turn its attention toward its Finnish neighbor.
Governor Inslee and President Niinistö were at pains to stress the importance of the friendship between the United States and Finland, looking to it as an example of the good that bilateral partnerships can do to address some of the world’s most pressing problems, including climate change. The two nation’s friendship and shared values are a big reason why Finland is fast-becoming a favorite travel destination for Americans, with vacation packages in Finland in high demand.
Expanding on this, President Niinistö noted that, “Finland and the United States share a strong and long-standing relationship. Geographically, we might be far apart but our cultural and historical ties are very close. And most importantly, we stand for the same values.”
President Niinistö’s visit comes on the back of a 2021 visit to Finland by Governor Inslee, which resulted in an information-sharing agreement that covers urgent issues such as clean energy, technology, and transportation.
In a joint press conference, Niinistö and Inslee emphasized the incredible urgency of collaboration between nations, particularly on issues such as climate change. Climate change is a global issue and requires global solutions. Both governments believe that their partnership can go a long way towards helping to resolve the threat of climate change.
Both governments have deployed a lot of resources toward tackling climate change, as well as the other challenges covered in their information-sharing agreement. They are determined to deepen ties and collaboration across all levels of government.
Technology and Partnership
President Niinistö highlighted the role that technology can play in the partnership between the two countries, saying that “In the future, our competitiveness and national security will be closely tied to emerging technologies. In fields such as 6G, quantum computing and artificial intelligence, we have a lot to gain from cooperation. I trust that the good work that we have started between Finland and the State of Washington will bear fruit and benefit not just us but also the larger international community.”
Governor Inslee concurred with President Niinistö, saying that Washington State and Finland were united in their concern over the two most pressing issues of the day: climate change and the invasion of Ukraine.