President Biden says Vladimir Putin hoped his invasion of Ukraine would intimidate Europe but instead only succeeded in stiffening unity and democratic resolve.
Speaking at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony, Biden said Russia’s effort to use its military might and energy exports to “Finland-ize” the continent has completely backfired.
“The actions taken by Putin were an attempt, to use my phrase, to Finland-ize all of Europe, make it all neutral,” Biden said. “Instead, he NATO-ized all of Europe.”
Since the outbreak of the Cold War, Finland maintained a strictly neutral posture between Russia and the West, mostly in hopes of avoiding Russian aggression.
But the invasion of Ukraine spurred the Arctic nation to switch paths and seek to join NATO to protect itself against its more powerful neighbor. In a major geopolitical blow to Russia, Sweden also decided to apply to join the Western alliance.
Biden ripped Putin for unleashing a brutal war against the entire Ukrainian people.
“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 future officers, raising his voice in outrage. “(He’s) attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums with no other purpose than eliminate a culture.”
He said the invasion will transform the international order that has existed since the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
The president warned the newly minted midshipmen that they would face new and unforeseen threats in coming years.
“(It’s) a direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rule-based international order,” Biden said.
“You are graduating at an inflection point, not only in American history but in world history,” Biden added. “The challenges we face, the choices we make are more consequential than ever. Things are changing so rapidly that the next 10 years will be the decisive decade of this century.”
Biden told about 1,200 graduates that his foreign policy is focused on rebuilding longstanding alliances that had frayed in recent years. Although he did not mention former President Trump by name, it was clear that he was referring to his predecessor’s uneven geopolitical leadership style.
He boasted that those efforts had borne fruit with the unified response to Russia’s invasion.
“You’ll be representatives and defenders of our democracy,” Biden said.