COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., June 1 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden predicted Thursday that Sweden will join NATO “soon,” speaking at the U.S. Air Force Academy days after he hinted at a potential deal to overcome Turkey’s opposition to recognizing the Nordic country. . to the alliance.
Biden, in a flag-waving commencement address in Colorado Springs, Colo., warned grads that they would enter service in an increasingly unstable world, citing challenges from Russia and China.
Biden, 80, who stood for most of the hours-long ceremony to shake hands with the graduates, appeared to stumble on something and eventually fell to his knees. He was helped to his feet and walked to his seat unassisted.
On Monday, Biden spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on his re-election. Biden told reporters that Erdogan reiterated Ankara’s desire to buy F-16 fighter jets from the United States, while Biden urged Ankara to drop its objection to Sweden joining NATO.
In his inaugural address, Biden said NATO is stronger despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to break the alliance with his invasion of Ukraine. Finland’s acceptance at last and, “and soon, Sweden,” he said, strengthens it even more.
“It will happen, I promise,” he said, but gave no details.
On Monday, Biden said he would speak with Erdogan again soon. The annual NATO summit takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Turkey to immediately finalize Sweden’s accession to NATO, saying the country had already taken significant steps to address Ankara’s objections to its membership.
The White House denied that Biden was seeking an agreement with Turkey to lift its opposition in exchange for the F16s.
The 80-year-old president, who is seeking re-election in 2024, stood throughout the presentation of more than 900 college degrees despite the relatively thin mountain air, shook hands and gave a sharp salute to the blue-uniformed grads. His downfall came at the end of the single salute. The Air Force Academy is located at an altitude of 7,258 feet (2,212.3 meters) above sea level.
Biden made it clear that the United States will not back down from the challenge posed by China amid deep tensions in the relationship.
He said that “the United States does not seek conflict or confrontation with China. China and the United States should be able to work together where we can to solve some global challenges, such as climate.”
“But we are ready for strong competition,” he said, adding that the United States will defend its interests and those of its partners.
The president emphasized the support of the United States to Ukraine in the war with Russia.
“The support of the American people for Ukraine will not waver,” Biden said.
(This story has been reworded to fix spelling to say “hesitation” instead of “concession” in paragraph 15)
(Reporting by Steve Holland). Editing by Caitlin Weber, Heather Timmons, and David Gregorio
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