The U.S. Senate voted today on a resolution to ratify Finland and Sweden’s applications to join NATO. The request has largely received bi-partisan support and was expected to pass through the Senate easily.
Finland and Sweden requested to join following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Putin reportedly stated that the two countries could “join whatever they want.” However, Putin also warned that “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, [Russia] would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for [them.]”
After applying for membership, the Nordic countries were met with resistance from Turkey, which alleged that Finland and Sweden supported groups Turkey had designated as terrorists. Since then, the three countries came to an agreement and signed an accord to allow the application to move forward.
Referring to today’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated, “The NATO vote is a very important vote for American security around the world. Finland’s and Sweden’s membership will strengthen NATO even further, and is all the more urgent given Russian aggression.”
While most senators have voiced support for the two countries joining NATO, Senator Josh Hawley recently wrote an op-ed explaining why he would not be voting for the ratification. Hawley explained that if the vote passed, “According to the terms of NATO’s founding treaty, that means the United States would be obliged to defend both countries in the event of a military attack. I intend to vote no.”
Hawley expressed concern that America is not in a position to commit to protecting another country. He wrote, “When it comes to Chinese imperialism, the American people should know the truth: the United States is not ready to resist it. Expanding American security commitments in Europe now would only make that problem worse—and America, less safe.”
The Missouri senator mentioned that European countries are not paying their fair share regarding defense responsibilities. He called on them to invest more in national defense to alleviate costs for the United States. “All the way back in 2006, NATO member states pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on national defense. It should be higher. The United States spends far more than that on defense. But many NATO members still haven’t met even this minimal commitment,” Hawley noted.
In an interview with Politico, Senator Ted Cruz disagreed with Hawley’s points. Cruz argued, “We don’t beat China by retreating from the rest of the world. We beat China by standing with our allies against our enemies.”
Yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed in reply to Hawley’s. In it, Rubio claimed, “NATO would be stronger with Finland and Sweden. And while President Joe Biden’s record is proof that weakness invites aggression and breeds chaos, the converse is also true. As Ronald Reagan would say, peace comes through strength.”
Rubio argued that by adding Finland and Sweden to NATO, America would have more resources to defend itself against the People’s Republic of China.
On July 5, all 30 NATO members signed an accession protocol, granting Sweden and Finland the ability to join the alliance. Since the accession was signed, the two Nordic countries have been allowed to participate in some meetings.
However, the decision must first be ratified by all 30 parliaments before the two countries can become official members. The ratification process could take up to a year, at which point, the defense clause will protect them.