When President Joe Biden met in the Oval Office on Friday afternoon with Sauli Niinisto, president of the neutral but increasingly nervous Finland, Biden tried to put his guest at ease with a little banter recalling something that Barack Obama once said.
“President Obama used to say, ‘We’d be all right if we left everything to the Nordic countries,’ Biden recalled. “Everything would be fine.”
Niinisto nodded and replied, “Well, we usually don’t start wars.” It was an exchange that captured how diplomacy has changed in the past nine days, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine rocked the way Europeans talked about Russia. Before that, President Vladimir Putin’s Russia was an unpredictable force to be managed, especially for a nation like Finland, which was ruled by Russia for most of the 19th century, until the Russian Revolution in 1917.