Senate votes overwhelmingly for Sweden and Finland to join NATO

Washington — The Senate voted 95 to 1 on Wednesday to ratify NATO membership for Finland and Swedenwith overwhelming bipartisan support expected to rapidly expand the Western military alliance in response to The Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The only no was Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. His Republican colleague, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, voted present.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who visited Kyiv and the region earlier this year, had called for unanimous approval. Speaking from the Senate, McConnell cited the modernized and well-funded armies of the two Nordic countries and their experience working with US forces and weapons systems, calling it a “national security slam-dunk” of the states. -United.

“Their membership will make NATO stronger and America safer. If a senator is looking for a valid excuse to vote no, I wish him well,” the Senate Republican leader said.

Belgium NATO Finland Sweden
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, left, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, right, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attend a press conference after signing the accession protocols to NATO for Finland and Sweden at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, July 5, 2022.

Olivier Matthys/AP

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that Swedish and Finnish membership “will strengthen NATO. Ukraine”.

The senators invited the countries’ ambassadors to attend the debate and vote, which would usher in a new era for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Biden has called for early entry for the two previously militarily unaligned northern European allies, and approval of the ratification resolution has broad bipartisan support in Congress.

“Our NATO alliance is the foundation that has guaranteed democracy in the Western world since the end of World War II,” Schumer said ahead of the vote.

Schumer said he and McConnell had pledged to the country’s leadership that the Senate would approve the ratification resolution “as quickly as possible” to strengthen the alliance “in light of recent Russian aggression.”

The vote took place at the end of the afternoon after debate on the measure and various amendments. A Paul amendment ensured that NATO’s guarantee to defend its members does not replace the formal role of Congress in authorizing the use of military force. Another from Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska said all NATO members should spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense and 20% of their defense budget on “major equipment, including research and development”.

All 30 NATO member countries are considering the addition after Sweden and Finland set aside their longstanding stance of military non-alignment. It was a major shift in security arrangements for both countries after neighboring Russia launched its war on Ukraine earlier this year.

The United States and its European allies have rallied with a new partnership in the face of aggression from Russian President Vladimir Putin, strengthening the NATO alliance first formed after World War II.

Mr. Biden sent the protocols to the Senate for review in July, kicking off a particularly speedy process in the generally divided and slower chamber.

Each NATO member country must approve the accession of new members. The process ran into difficulties when Turkey raised concerns about the addition of Sweden and Finland, in part because it sees both countries as soft on Turkish Kurdish exile groups. prohibited. But the process continued to move forward despite these early reservations.

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