WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution approving Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, a crucial step toward expanding the 30-member transatlantic military alliance.
The bipartisan show of support for Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership is a direct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an act of aggression that has alarmed US and European officials. The vote was 95-1.
Finland and Sweden’s candidacy to join NATO will need to gain the approval of all other NATO countries, a process that could take months and which, when completed, would grant protection for the article. 5 to the two historically neutral countries.
In the meantime, the countries are considered NATO partners and have participated in military exercises with the United States and other NATO countries.
- What the senators adopted: A resolution approving the membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO. Lawmakers approved an amendment stipulating that 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.
- Who voted against: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.
- When will this come into effect: Membership will not take full effect until all 30 NATO member countries have ratified the accession protocols.
- Stumbling block : Turkey initially opposed Sweden and Finland’s bid to join the alliance, and its parliament has yet to approve their membership.
- What Turkey was looking for: Turkey had insisted that the two Nordic countries renounce support for a Kurdish militant group in Syria, asked them to extradite people suspected by Ankara of terrorist activities and urged them to lift the embargo on arms exports to Turkey.
- Potential problems: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last month that Turkey could “freeze” the process if Sweden and Finland do not join the June agreement reached by the three countries in Madrid at a summit in Madrid. NATO.
- Defense expenditure: NATO countries have agreed to devote 2% of their GDP to defense spending. Sweden is currently on track to reach the full amount by 2028, but this timeline could change depending on the outcome of the upcoming national elections. Finland’s defense spending currently exceeds 2% of GDP.
what will happen
The document is now heading to President Joe Biden’s office. He must sign the resolution twice before the State Department can affix the US seal to make it official. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also sign the document.
Washington had promised quick ratification of the resolution, and the United States hoped to induce NATO countries to welcome European countries into the alliance. But partisan fights over unrelated spending bills protracted the process. The United States is currently on track to become the 22nd country to complete the process.
What they say
- “I think it sends a very strong statement of our support for these countries to join NATO, and of our continued position of leadership within NATO and around the world. When we do this, we give example,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, DN.Y., said before the vote.
- Senator John Barrasso, a Senate GOP leadership member who sits on the committee, said before the vote, “We want to send a strong message that the United States is committed to this to align other countries.”
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.S.C., offered a “shout out” to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, saying he made Wednesday’s vote possible. “Without you, we wouldn’t be here. You have done more to strengthen NATO than any speech I could have ever hoped to deliver.
- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has warned that granting NATO membership to Sweden and Finland would come at a cost because Russia would not tolerate an expansion of weapons systems in Finland. “Is it worth it?” He asked.
- Hawley said the United States should focus on deterring China instead of expanding NATO, which he said would mean committing additional military forces and firepower to Europe in the long term.
- “It’s not over until it’s over,” said Kathleen McInnis, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Turkey are already starting to throw red cards into the mix.”
- Karin Olofsdotter, Swedish Ambassador to the United States, said in an interview with USA TODAY that without Sweden and Finland, it is “much more difficult to plan the security” of the Baltic region.
why is it important
Olofsdotter said the expansion would increase security across the NATO alliance. “We are making it easier, or less onerous, for the United States or any other NATO member to come to the defense of Northern Europe because we are adding security,” she said.
Want to know more? Here’s what you missed
‘A KICK IN THE TASTE’:Finland and Sweden’s drive to join NATO is a defeat for Putin, a victory for the West
‘A CRITICAL MOMENT FOR OUR SAFETY’:Finland and Sweden submit applications for NATO membership, prompted by Russian security fears
Contributor: Michael Collins