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Schumer, McConnell urge Biden to move quickly on NATO expansion

The Senate is not expected to vote on admitting Finland and Sweden into NATO until this summer, but there is broad bipartisan support.
Image:  Joe Biden
President Joe Biden walks with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House on Thursday. Andrew Harnik / AP

Top Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have signed on to a resolution backing Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to join NATO and urging President Joe Biden to expedite the process.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday they were co-sponsoring the symbolic resolution, which signals strong bipartisan support for the pair of European countries’ applications to join NATO.

The Foreign Relations Committee will mark up the nonbinding resolution Thursday.

The Senate isn't expected to take up legislation to approve NATO expansion until this summer. It requires support from two-thirds of senators and is expected to pass easily.

The four-page resolution — by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the leaders of the Foreign Relations Committee — says that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine "has dramatically changed the security situation in Europe" and that NATO expansion is critical to ensure the security of the U.S. and its European allies. 

Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia.

The resolution also calls on the Biden administration to “move expeditiously” to complete all of the documents and reports needed for the Senate to sign off on NATO expansion, and it urges other NATO members to quickly complete their own ratification processes.

“As the world’s democracies unite against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his crony oligarchs, Finland and Sweden’s ascension into NATO will be a further rebuke of Putin’s murderous attack on Ukraine," Schumer said in a statement.

“The people of Ukraine continue to fight bravely against Russian aggression and every democracy across the globe has an obligation to stand with Ukraine."

Said McConnell: “Finland and Sweden are strong countries with formidable military capabilities that surpass many existing NATO allies. Both nations’ robust defense funding means their accession would meaningfully bolster our pursuit of greater burden-sharing across the alliance.”

Schumer, McConnell and other senators hosted Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Capitol Hill last week. Andersson and Niinistö also met with Biden during their visit to Washington.

The same day, the Senate voted 86-11 to pass $40 billion of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia's bloody invasion. 

All of the 11 no votes came from Republicans, some of whom said they hadn’t yet decided how they will vote on NATO expansion.

“I want to make sure it will not increase America’s security commitments in Europe. Certainly I want to make sure there is no need for more forces,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a member of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters last week. "My view is that we need to be, on the whole, doing less in Europe and looking towards the Asia Pacific in terms of our foreign policy challenges.”