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Senate votes overwhelmingly to add Sweden and Finland to NATO

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WASHINGTON The Senate overwhelmingly approved a treaty on Wednesday that would expand NATO to include Finland and Sweden, with Republicans and Democrats joining arms to pave the way for one of the alliance’s most significant expansions. for decades amid Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine.

The vote was 95 to 1, with only Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, opposing the decision. The lopsided tally, far exceeding the two-thirds support needed to approve a treaty, underscored the bipartisan appetite for a tougher Western military alliance, even amid threats from Russian officials that Sweden and Finland would face retaliation if they joined NATO.

Joining Finland and Sweden will further strengthen NATO, and is all the more urgent given Russian aggression, given Putin’s immoral and unjustified war in Ukraine, Senator Chuck Schumer said, New York Democrat and Majority Leader. Putin is strengthening the NATO alliance, and nothing shows that better than the resounding approval of the pact by the Senate.

The 30 current members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must ratify the membership of the two countries. Twenty-two countries have already done so, but just two weeks ago Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to block membership applications from Finland and Sweden, which would prolong the process.

Still, US approval is a crucial step, and the vote was a triumph for President Biden. It was a vindication of his desire to rally Western allies to confront Mr. Putin’s brutal campaign in Ukraine and a step towards fulfilling his commitment as a presidential candidate to restore badly frayed alliances during the era Trump and to reaffirm the role of the United States in protecting democracy around the world.

This historic vote sends an important signal of the United States’ sustained, bipartisan commitment to NATO and ensuring that our alliance is ready to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, Biden said in a statement, adding that he looked forward to welcoming two strong democracies with highly capable armies, in the largest defensive alliance in history.

Democrats have argued that adding Sweden and Finland to NATO would reduce the burden on the United States and the wider alliance.

More than ever, it is crystal clear that NATO plays a vital role for the security of the United States and as a bulwark in protecting peace and democracies around the world, said Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Seventy years ago, the democratic nations of Europe and the United States came together to defend the liberty, liberty and individual rights of their citizens against the threat of a militarized Soviet Union, Mr. Menend. Now as then, the defensive alliance serves as a bulwark of stability and the rule of law for the peoples of its member states.

The voting margin also reflected a stark rejection by Republicans of the America First philosophy espoused by President Donald J. Trump, who openly disdained NATO and American commitments to international organizations.

Some Republicans in the Senate have watched with concern as a growing number of their colleagues, seeking to emulate Mr. Trump and appeal to his supporters, have taken anti-interventionist stances at odds with their party’s traditional hawkish stance. Even when Mr. Trump occupied the White House, foreign policy was one of the few areas where Republicans dared to challenge him.

Wednesday’s crushing tally of just one defection was one of the strongest rejections to date of this isolationist worldview. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, voted present.

Few Republicans have expressed qualms about striking a mutual defense pact with a country that shares an 800-mile border with Russia, arguing instead that it would strengthen the alliance.

The vote came a day after Republicans in the House rallied around Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, one of their bitterest political opponents for defying Chinese government warnings and going to Taiwan. That support and Wednesday’s resounding vote stands in stark contrast to the pitched battles Republicans have fought with Democrats over domestic policy.

It also marked the success of a concerted effort by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Minority Leader, who has long pushed against anti-interventionist tension in his party but has in recent months launched a particularly aggressive effort to publicly rallying support for the kind of assertive military presence abroad that was once considered Republican orthodoxy.

Determined to show the world that Mr. Trump’s views on military aid and alliances had no sway over Senate Republicans, the Republican leader visited Ukraine, Sweden and Finland in May. .

Mr McConnell argued that Sweden and Finland would be able to shoulder their share of the defense burden, in a bid to counter a concern frequently voiced by Tories about being added to the alliance. And he had argued to his members that even closer cooperation with the two nations would help the United States counter China, another argument made by Republicans saying the United States needed to shift its defense resources from China. Europe to Asia.

Joining them will make NATO stronger and America safer, McConnell said in a speech to the Senate on Wednesday. If a senator is looking for a valid excuse to vote no, I wish him good luck.

Only Mr Hawley, who is widely seen as an aspiring presidential candidate in 2024, voted against the treaty, write in an opinion piece that NATO expansion would almost certainly mean more US forces in Europe in the long run.

Faced with this harsh reality, we must choose, said Mr. Hawley. We must do less in Europe (and elsewhere) to favor China and Asia.

The other four Republican senators who are widely believed to harbor presidential aspirations Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida all voted in favor of the expansion.

Mr. Cruz, in a brief interview, called NATO the most successful military alliance in modern history and said that bringing in serious additional military capability would only strengthen it.

And Mr Cotton went to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the vote to deliver a point-by-point argument against opponents of the treaties, portraying them as alarmist and backward.

Some critics say America shouldn’t commit to protecting countries on the other side of the world, Mr Cotton said. But these criticisms come seven decades too late. Were already bound by treaty to defend more than two dozen nations in Europe.

The real question today, he said, is whether adding two capable and strong nations to our mutual defense pact will make us stronger or weaker.

Only the Senate has the power to review and approve treaties. Last month, in a show of solidarity, the House passed a non-binding resolution supporting Finland and Sweden joining NATO, by 394 votes to 18.

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