Washington — The Senate voted 95-1 Wednesday to ratifywith overwhelming bipartisan support expected for the rapid expansion of the Western military alliance in response .
The only negative was Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. Fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was present.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who visited Kyiv and the region earlier this year, had called for a unanimous show of approval. Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell cited the two Nordic nations’ well-funded, modernizing militaries and their experience working with US forces and weapons systems, calling it a “national security slam-dunk” for the United States. .
“Their entry will make NATO stronger and America safer. If any senator is looking for a valid excuse to vote no, I wish them the best of luck,” the Senate Republican leader said.
After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that “Sweden and Finland joining will strengthen NATO. It will advance the cause of democracy. And it is even more urgent given Putin’s barbaric, immoral and unjustified war in Ukraine.”
The senators invited the countries’ ambassadors to attend the debate and vote, which would open a new era for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Biden has sought fast-track entry for the two northern European allies who have not been militarily aligned in the past, and passage of the ratification resolution has overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.
“Our NATO alliance is the foundation that has guaranteed democracy in the Western world since the end of World War II,” Schumer said before the vote.
Schumer said he and McConnell had pledged to the nation’s leaders that the Senate would pass the ratification resolution “as quickly as we could” to strengthen the alliance “in light of recent Russian aggression.”
The vote took place in the late afternoon after the debate on the measure and various amendments. An amendment by Paul ensured that NATO’s guarantee of the defense of its members did not supersede Congress’ formal role in authorizing the use of military force. Another from Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska said all NATO members should spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense and 20 percent of their defense budgets on “major equipment, including research and development”.
NATO’s 30 member nations are in the process of considering the addition after Sweden and Finland set aside their long-standing stance on military non-alignment. It was a major change in security arrangements for the two countries after neighboring Russia launched its war against Ukraine earlier this year.
The US and its European allies have rallied in a new partnership against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, strengthening the NATO alliance formed for the first time since World War II.
Mr. Biden sent the protocols to the Senate for review in July, setting off a particularly speedy process in the typically divided and slower-moving chamber.
Each NATO member country must approve the accession of new members. The process ran into problems when Turkey raised concerns about the addition of Sweden and Finland, in part because it views the two countries as soft on Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish exile groups. But the process continued to move forward despite these early reservations.