Senate panel advances Finland, Sweden NATO bid

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday advanced protocols to support the accession of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, setting up a full Senate vote on expanding the alliance.

The text, called a resolution of advice and consent to ratify NATO accession protocols, passed by voice vote.

Senators from both sides of the aisle have urged a quick ratification for Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO as a strong signal of support for the alliance in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

“Today’s vote is further proof that the answer to aggression is not isolation, but deeper engagement with likeminded democracies,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement. 

“As we look to expand NATO, the Senate also reaffirms its rock solid commitment to the Ukrainian people in their struggle for freedom from oppression. We must redouble our efforts to provide the Ukrainian people every weapon they need to fight this barbaric Russian war machine,” he added.

Sen. Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the committee, said in a statement that the bipartisan vote “is a testament to the importance of the alliance and U.S. support for its enlargement.”

“Now, I hope the Senate will move swiftly to pass the resolution of ratification so the United States can do its part to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO as soon as possible,” he added.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recorded his vote as present and has spoken out against expanding NATO, criticizing the alliance as provoking military aggression over diplomacy. In 2017, Paul blocked the Senate from voting for Montenegro’s accession to the alliance. 

Each government of NATO’s 30-member countries must individually ratify the treaty to allow for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. At least 10 countries have already ratified the treaty to allow Stockholm and Helsinki’s addition. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is holding back full support of his government for Finland and Sweden, saying in a television address on Monday that Ankara reserves the right to “freeze” their NATO bids if its security concerns are not met.

Erdoğan had earlier blocked Finland and Sweden’s application to NATO over what it says are concerns related to Kurdish militant groups, but removed its objections after the three countries signed a trilateral memorandum, laying out measures to address Turkey’s concerns. 

This story was updated at 4:13 p.m.

Tags Bob Menendez Bob Menendez Finland James Risch Jim Risch Jim Risch NATO membership Rand Paul Russia-Ukraine war Sweden

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