US Senate overwhelmingly approves NATO membership for Finland and Sweden | NATO

The US Senate on Wednesday gave near-unanimous bipartisan endorsement of Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, calling the Western defensive bloc’s expansion a “slam dunk” for US national security and a day of reckoning for Vladimir Putin .

The 95-1 vote for the candidacy of two European countries which, until Russia’s war against Ukrainehad long shunned military alliances, took a crucial step toward expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its 73-year-old mutual defense pact between the United States and democratic allies in Europe.

Joe Biden, who has been the main player in global economic and material support for Ukraine, has called for rapid entry for the two previously non-military aligned Northern European countries.

The approval of all member countries – currently 30 – is required. The applications of Finland and Sweden have won the ratification of more than half of NATO member countries within about three months of applying.

“This sends a wake-up call to tyrants around the world who believe free democracies are up for grabs,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said ahead of the vote.

“Russia’s unprovoked invasion changed the way we think about global security,” she added.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who visited Kyiv earlier this year, called for unanimous approval. Addressing the Senate, McConnell cited the well-funded and modernized Finnish and Swedish militaries and their experience working with American forces and weapons systems, calling the decision a “national security slam dunk” for the United States. .

“Their membership will NATO stronger and America safer. If a senator is looking for a valid excuse to vote no, I wish them luck,” McConnell said.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri who often aligns his positions with those of Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters, was one of the few to speak out in opposition. Hawley spoke in the Senate to call European security alliances a distraction from what he called America’s main rival – China, not Russia.

“We can do more in Europe…dedicate more resources, more firepower…or do what we need to do to deter Asia and China. We can’t do both,” Hawley said, calling his “classic nationalist approach” to foreign policy.

US state and Department of Defense officials see the two countries as net “security providers”, notably bolstering NATO’s defense posture in the Baltics. Finland is set to exceed NATO’s defense spending target of 2% of GDP in 2022, and Sweden is committed to meeting the 2% target.

Sweden and Finland applied in May, putting aside their long-standing position of military non-alignment. It was a major shift in security arrangements for both countries after neighboring Russia launched its war against Ukraine in late February. Biden encouraged their joining and hosted the heads of government from both countries at the White House in May.

In the face of the Russian president’s aggression, the United States and its European allies rallied with a new partnership, strengthening the alliance formed after World War II.

“NATO expansion is the exact opposite of what Putin envisioned when he ordered his tanks to invade Ukraine,” Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the committee, said Wednesday. Foreign Relations Secretary, adding that the West could not authorize Russia. to “launch country invasions”.

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 government must give its approval to the accession of any new member. The process ran into unexpected problems when Turkey raised concerns about the addition of Sweden and Finland, accusing the two of being soft on banned Turkish Kurdish exile groups. Turkey’s objections still threaten the two countries’ membership.

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