Biden welcomes Finland buying US jets amid Russia concerns

US President Joe Biden said that Finland’s decision to buy American-made F-35 fighter jets will pave the way to closer military ties in the coming years and shared “concerns” about Russia with his colleague in Helsinki.

Speaking with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Monday, Biden praised Finland’s decision to buy 64 jets from Lockheed Martin, to replace its aging American-made F/A-18s, calling the purchase “a strong foundation for even closer bilateral defense ties for years to come.”

The two leaders also “discussed their shared concerns about Russia’s destabilizing military buildup along Ukraine’s border and the importance of transatlantic efforts to de-escalate the situation,” the White House said.

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Russia’s neighbor to splash €10bn on F-35 fighter jets in record deal  

Helsinki’s readout of the call said the main topic of the conversation was “the worrisome situation at the borders of Ukraine” and that both presidents “considered it important to cooperate in order to find a diplomatic resolution to the tense situation.” 

Niinistö also said he appreciated NATO’s Open Door policy, but did not mention F-35s at all. He is due to call Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

The F-35 deal, announced Friday, is worth 8.378 billion euros ($9.44 billion) and includes the fighter jets, armaments and maintenance through 2030. Finland is expecting to start phasing the jets into service in 2027, according to its air force commander Pasi Jokinen.

Lockheed Martin won out in the competition between Boeing, France’s Dassault, Eurofighter, and the neighboring Sweden’s Saab. Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen insisted that “all countries involved are very close and valued partners of Finland.”

Finland is the second neutral European country to opt for the troubled and pricey US-made jet, which the Pentagon itself described as a “failure” in February. In June, Switzerland announced a $6,352 million deal for 36 units of the F-35A.

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