Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at a Joint Session at the Washington State Capitol on 6 March 2023

President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö holding a speech at a Joint Session at the Washington State Capitol on 6 March 2023. Photo: Riikka Hietajärvi/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland
Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö pitämässä puhetta Washingtonin osavaltion senaatin ja edustajainhuoneen yhteisistunnossa 6.3.2023. Kuva: Riikka Hietajärvi/Tasavallan presidentin kanslia

Governor Inslee, President Heck, Members of the Washington State Legislature, Justices of the State Supreme Court, Dear Washingtonians

It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to address this body.

Finland and the United States share a strong and longstanding 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.

The current critical geopolitical situation has brought us closer together than ever before. We are now strengthening our ties in sectors such as defense, trade, technology and energy security. And soon we will be able to call each other Allies.


More than one year ago, Russia launched its brutal attack on Ukraine and brought full-scale war back on the European continent. The past year has seen horrors we did not expect to see in Europe in this day and age. Cities destroyed. Schools, homes and critical infrastructure demolished. Thousands of lives taken. Millions forced to leave their homes.

In his recent address in Warsaw, President Biden called Russia’s invasion a test for the ages. A test not just for Ukraine, but also for Europe, America, NATO and all democracies. Ukraine has faced that test with its head held high. The Ukrainians continue to fight for their freedom and for our common values with incredible strength and resilience.

The transatlantic community stands by Ukraine, strong and united. In senates and parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic, old policies have been reviewed and strong decisions have been made. Together we have provided Ukraine with great amounts of military aid, material support and humanitarian relief. We must continue to do so, until a just and sustainable peace is achieved.


For us Finns, Russia’s attack brought back echoes of our own history. It evoked our collective memory. Describing Finland’s battle against the Soviet Union in the Winter War, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote: ”the people of Finland, by their unexcelled valour and strong resistance in the face of overwhelming armed forces, have won the moral right to live in everlasting peace and independence in the land they have so bravely defended”.

There seems to be no end in sight for Russia’s war in Ukraine. It is for Ukraine to decide, when it is the time for negotiations. Finland supports Ukraine’s initiative for a just peace. And one thing is clear: the Ukrainians have the right to live in peace and independence in their own country.


In December 2021, when the President of Russia demanded that NATO must not expand eastward, we in Finland knew what it was about. 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.

Ten years prior – in our very first meeting – I had told President Putin that Finland, like every sovereign nation, maximizes its own security. Russia’s attempt to limit our freedom of decision and finally, its brutal attack on another sovereign neighbour, made our decision clear. In May 2022, Finland officially decided to apply for NATO membership.

Finland has always understood that security is not to be taken for granted. We have held on to conscription and consistently invested in our national defence. In 2021, we made a decision to purchase 64 F-35 fighter jets. That is a lot for a small country. Finland’s NATO membership will not only maximize our own security. We will be a strong contributor for the security of the whole Alliance.

Throughout our membership process, the support we have gotten from the United States has been overwhelming. President Biden has thrown his weight and extraordinary leadership behind Finland’s and Sweden’s membership processes. Dozens of members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, from both sides of the aisle, have worked tirelessly on our behalf. And Americans across the country have voiced their support. For that, I just want to say: thank you.

Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO memberships are still two ratifications short of completion. But it is my hope and belief that the NATO Summit in Vilnius will be a true display of allied unity with 32 members around the table.


The State of Washington is one of Finland’s core partners in the United States. The first Finnish communities settled here at the end of the 19th century. In 1915, there were about 55 Finnish families and 29 Saunas in Kirkland’s Finn Hill. Today, Finland has a population of 5.5 million and around 3 million Saunas. The “sauna ratio” was about right here in Washington State more than a hundred years ago.

The Finnish and Nordic communities in Washington are still strong and active. We are proud to even have our “own” representative here in state Legislature, Senator Marko Liias. And, of course, our two representatives, forwards Joonas Donskoi and Eeli Tolvanen, in the Seattle Krakens.


The multiple, overlapping crises we are faced with underscore the need for partnerships. For Finland, state partnerships in the US are an increasingly important element of bilateral cooperation.

In 2021, Finland and Washington State signed a Memorandum of Understanding to deepen our economic ties. We are working to accelerate our cooperation in crucial fields of the future: that is high technology and green transition. I hope that this visit can also serve to take this work forward. I have with me a group of leading Finnish companies working in these fields.

In the global fight against climate change, Finland and Washington are forerunners. Finland’s goal is to be carbon-neutral by 2035. Reaching that goal requires investments, political leadership, determination and innovation. But the way I see it, sustainability should not be seen as a sacrifice but as an opportunity.

Combatting climate change is absolutely crucial for the survival of our planet. But it also makes economic sense. Global markets for green technologies are growing rapidly and offer tremendous potential for forerunners like us.

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. Only together can we ensure that these crucial technologies will be developed and used in line with our own values.

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.


The bigger the challenges we face, the more important that we face them together. Europe needs the United States. But the United States also needs Europe. Together we have built and upheld the post World War II international institutions and order. From the United Nations to Bretton Woods. And together we will continue to uphold and revitalize this order, also after this war.

I want to thank you.