U.S. President Donald Trump, who met with his Finnish counterpart at the White House on Monday, said the United States was "very protective" of the Baltic region, especially in terms of the northern European states' relations with Russia.
"We are very protective of that region," Trump said at a joint news conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto after the two held talks in the Oval Office.
"That's all I can say," Trump added. "We are very, very protective. We have great friends there, great relationships there."
He added that he thought Russia respected Finland and that he hoped the United States would also develop a good relationship with Russia.
"I say it loud and clear, I've been saying it for years," Trump told reporters. "I think it's a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships, with Russia. That's very important."
Niinisto said "the U.S. and NATO presence in Europe — and in the Baltic Sea — are most important, and they are increasing rapidly." He also said small but positive steps had been made toward reopening dialogue between NATO and Russia.
The two leaders also discussed terrorism, and Trump said the United States stood in solidarity with Finland against terrorist threats. "We must all work together to deny terrorists safe havens, cut off their finances and defeat their very wicked ideology," the American president said.
Earlier this month, a man stabbed eight people in western Finland, killing two of them in the city of Turku. Finnish police said at the time that it was too early to link the attack to international terrorism.
Niinisto said his talks in the Oval Office with Trump also included a discussion of the Arctic region, where climate changes and rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have greatly reduced ice levels and are endangering the environment.
"If we lose the Arctic, we lose the globe," Niniisto said.