The US Senate on Wednesday ratified the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO, strongly backing the expansion of the transatlantic alliance in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Senate voted 95 to one in favor of the two Nordic countries’ accession, making the US the 23rd of the 30 NATO countries to formally endorse their bids, after Italy approved it earlier that day and France on Tuesday.
US President Joe Biden hailed the Senate’s quick ratification process — the fastest since 1981.
“This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan US commitment to NATO and to ensuring our Alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” Biden said in a statement.
The sole opponent was US Senator Josh Hawley, who agreed that Washington should focus on protecting its homeland, but said it should concentrate on the challenge from China rather than Europe.
US Senator Rand Paul voted “present” rather than endorsing or opposing the motion.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was a signal of Western unity after Moscow launched its war on Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“This is important substantively and as a signal to Russia. They cannot intimidate America or Europe,” Schumer said, adding that Russian President Vladimir “Putin has tried to use his war in Ukraine to divide the West.”
“Instead, today’s vote shows our alliance is stronger than ever,” he added.
All 30 NATO members must agree if Finland and Sweden, officially nonaligned, but longtime adjunct partners of the alliance, are admitted.
A NATO list showed that seven member countries have yet to formally agree to the new double entry: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey.
Only Turkey has raised a challenge, demanding certain concessions from Finland and Sweden to back their memberships.
Ankara has demanded the extradition of dozens of Turkish government opponents it labels “terrorists” from both countries in exchange for its support.
Turkey on July 21 said that a special committee would this month meet Finnish and Swedish officials to assess whether the two nations are complying with its conditions.
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