Biden says Switzerland is joining NATO – not Sweden – in gaffe: President catches mistake and jokes ‘my goodness, I’m getting really anxious about expanding’ alliance as he takes questions from reporters on prepared list
He quickly recovered, joking that he must be getting anxious about the process of expanding the alliance.
Biden delivered his remarks at the end of a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, where the big news was Turkey dropping its objection to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.
He described the process by which the two nations made their application after Vladimir Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine.
First came a call from the leader Finland, asking to visit the White House.
‘We got the telephone … he suggested we call the leader of Switzerland … ‘ he said before realizing his mistake.
‘Switzerland, my goodness, I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO.
President Joe Biden addressed the media at the end of a six-day trip to Europe. But he blundered by saying neutral Switzerland – rather than Sweden – was joining NATO
Biden joined allies at the NATO summit in Madrid, where the big news was progress in Sweden and Finland joining the 30-strong alliance
Biden arrived in Europe on Saturday night for the G7 summit in Germany, before flying to Spain.
But he has taken few questions from reporters during the trip.
On Thursday, he called on four reporters whose names were on a prepared list.
As has become White House practise, administration officials had telephoned members of the traveling press pack to ask what the journalists planned to ask.
‘I’m supposed to go down the list here,’ said Biden as he called on Jim Tankersley of the New York Times.
Earlier, leaders at the NATO summit had made clear they remained united in supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Biden used his news conference to say he was sending another $800 million in aid to Ukraine and said Putin’s aggression had backfired with the way NATO was expanding.
‘Putin thought he could break the transatlantic alliance,’ he said.
‘He tried to weaken us. He expected our resolve to fracture but he’s getting exactly what he did not want.
‘He wanted the Finlandization of NATO. He got the NATOization.’
Sweden and Finland ended decades of neutrality to apply for NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine.
President Joe Biden, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto walk along the Colonnade to the Oval Office at the White House, last month
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to launch NATO applications
If the nations are accepted into the alliance they will bring with them almost 1million troops, including reserves, along with a huge amount of artillery, jets and submarines
Turkey opposed their application, angered by what it says is their support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.
But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped his opposition on the eve of the summit, allowing NATO to formally invite them to join the alliance.
‘I think we can all agree this has been a historic NATO summit,’ said Biden.
‘Before the war started I told Putin that if he invaded Ukraine NATO would not only get stronger, but it would get more united, and we would see democracies of the world stand up and oppose his aggression and defend the rules based order.
‘That is exactly what we are seeing today.’
Earlier, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden and Finland will sign the alliance’s accession protocol on Tuesday – the next step to joining.
That must then be ratified by all 30 members for them to become members.