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Senate backs Finland and Sweden joining NATO

The two European countries are seeking to join the alliance, which would end their long-standing military neutrality, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Joe Biden,Magdalena Andersson,Sauli Niinisto
President Joe Biden greets Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House on May 19.Andrew Harnik / AP

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday ratifying Finland's and Sweden's applications to join NATO as the Western military alliance seeks to strengthen its resolve against the threat posed by Russia.

The measure was approved in a 95-1 vote that required support from at least two-thirds of senators present. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., cast the only vote against ratification.

"Today’s vote shows our alliance is stronger than ever," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor immediately before the vote. "This is important substantively and as a signal to Russia: They cannot intimidate America or Europe."

The Biden administration is now expected to submit the ratification documents to NATO.

“We will continue working to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression,” President Joe Biden said in a statement after the Senate vote.

“I look forward to signing the accession protocols and welcoming Sweden and Finland, two strong democracies with highly capable militaries, into the greatest defensive alliance in history,” he added.

All 30 NATO countries must ratify the applications before Finland and Sweden can become members. The two European countries are seeking to join the alliance, which would end their long-standing military neutrality, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Schumer said when he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., met with the Finnish president and the Swedish prime minister in May, they committed to ratifying their membership in NATO before the Senate's August recess.

McConnell offered his support for the resolution Wednesday ahead of the vote.

“Even closer cooperation with these partners will help us counter Russia and China. Their accession will make NATO stronger and America more secure," McConnell said in a statement. "This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.”

Hawley, the lone dissenter in Wednesday's vote, previewed his opposition earlier this week in an op-ed published in The National Interest.

"We must do less in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to prioritize China and Asia," he wrote.

With the Senate vote, the U.S. joins other NATO member countries that have ratified the applications from Finland and Sweden. Italy's parliament gave its final approval earlier Wednesday.

The last country to join NATO was North Macedonia, in 2020. Hawley voted in favor of their membership.