May 29, 2024

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Senate votes to approve NATO membership for Sweden and Finland

Senate votes to approve NATO membership for Sweden and Finland


The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to accept Sweden and Finland joining NATO, and backed an expansion of the alliance that supporters believe will send a message condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 95-1 vote made the United States 23rd out of 30 NATO member states to endorse the proposed addition, which leaders in Helsinki and Stockholm began considering this spring in response to Russia’s aggressive campaign across the border.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer called the vote “a signal to Russia: they can’t intimidate America or Europe.”

President Biden welcomed the Senate for the speed with which he ratified the accession protocols, adding that Finland and Sweden’s membership “will enhance NATO’s collective security and deepen the transatlantic partnership.”

The accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO would bolster the alliance’s military assets, especially since the two countries’ large arsenals of artillery, warplanes and naval weapons are already compatible with NATO systems.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (DN.J) said the expansion — adding Finland to more than twice the size of the organization’s territory directly bordering Russia — “is exactly the opposite of what Putin envisioned when he ordered his tanks to invade Ukraine.” .).

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According to Article 10 of the NATO Charter, additional European countries can be added to the ranks only by “unanimous agreement”. In the United States, approval of NATO enlargement falls under the authority of a Senate treaty; The House of Representatives will not vote on this issue.

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The seven countries that have not yet ratified the membership of Sweden and Finland include some countries where opposition could be an obstacle, such as Hungary and Turkey.

Having initially raised its objections to the offer, Turkey struck an agreement in late June to drop its opposition to it. Add Finland and Sweden if they agree to shut down the PKK’s recruitment and funding networks, and address Ankara’s requests to deport certain people affiliated with it.

At that time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Sweden and Finland should. “Fulfill their duties” before the Turkish parliament considers ratifying their offers to join NATO. And in the weeks that followed, he warned that Turkey could still “Freeze” The process is on track, hinting that he is not satisfied with their progress on the terms of the deal.

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Meanwhile, Hungary, whose authoritarian right-wing leader, Viktor Orban, is expected to address the Texas Conservative Political Action Conference. This week, he maintains an ambiguous stance on how he will handle the bids from Sweden and Finland.

Even in the United States, there is a small but vocal group opposing NATO expansion. In a defiant speech ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mis.) said allowing Finland and Sweden to join NATO would be against US interests because “NATO expansion will require more US forces in Europe, more manpower, and more.” .firepower, more resources, more spending, not just now but in the long run.”

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He insisted, “Our biggest foreign adversary is not in Europe, and our biggest foreign adversary is in Asia.”

Hawley’s opposition was strongly denounced by members of his party.

“Close cooperation with these partners will help us counter Russia and China,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said at the hearing, calling the accession a “death blow to national security.”

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Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) noted that it would be “really strange” for senators who voted for North Macedonia’s 2019 accession to NATO – a group that includes Hawley – to suddenly oppose the nominations of Finland and Sweden.

“Let’s be honest, who can deny the more powerful cases of Finland and Sweden?” Cotton said, arguing that those countries It was “much larger, much more capable and more strategically positioned”.

Hawley’s opposition was quite surprising given that Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who opposed North Macedonia in 2019 and Montenegro in 2017, voted to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), the only other senator to oppose North Macedonia and Montenegro’s bids, voted “present” Wednesday, noting that On the ground that in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “I am less adamant about preventing NATO expansion with Sweden and Finland.”

The Senate rejected Paul’s efforts to include an amendment to the ratification expressly stating that the United States’ Article 5 obligations to defend member states would not replace Congress’s constitutional right to authorize the use of military force.

Menendez said the amendment was “unnecessary” to protect the constitutional role of Congress. He told his colleagues that doing anything to raise doubts about our firm commitment to NATO would be “extremely destructive” and “self-defeating”.

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The Senate approved by voice vote an amendment to expect all NATO members to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence.