On Wednesday, the United States Senate voted in favor of a resolution ratifying membership for Sweden and Finland in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to CNN, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had previously announced the vote on Tuesday, and revealed that he had invited the ambassadors from both countries to be present in the Senate gallery during the debate and the final vote.
“Our NATO alliance is the bedrock that has guaranteed democracy in the western world since the end of World War II,” Schumer said from the Senate floor. “This strengthens NATO even further and is particularly needed in light of recent Russian aggression. When Leader McConnell and I met with the Finnish President and Swedish Prime Minister in May, we committed to do this as fast as we could and certainly before we go home for the August recess.”
McConnell made his own speech largely agreeing with Schumer’s sentiments, calling the effort “as decisive as it is bipartisan.”
“If any senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote no, I wish them good luck,” McConnell added. “This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.”
The measure ultimately passed 95-1. The sole opposition vote came from Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), while Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted “Present.”
Hawley explained his reasoning in an op-ed for The National Interest, stating that “America’s greatest foreign adversary doesn’t loom over Europe. It looms in Asia. I am talking of course about the People’s Republic of China.” And Paul similarly made his case in American Conservative, declaring that “we still need serious, rational, objective debate on the costs and benefits of admitting two historically neutral nations who have such strategic geographic position in relation to Russia,” while admitting that “before the Russian invasion, I would have said no. But given Russian actions, I have shifted from being against their admittance to NATO to neutral on the question.”
NATO had already issued its formal invitation for Sweden and Finland to join the alliance at the end of June. The final decision must be ratified by the legislatures and parliaments of all 30 member states before it can be officially approved.
Following the Senate’s ratification, “the next step in the ratification process is for the President to sign an instrument of ratification of the treaty,” said a State Department spokesman. “Once the President has signed an instrument of ratification, that instrument is deposited (in the case of a multilateral treaty) with the treaty’s depositary.”
Sweden and Finland expressed their determination to join the Cold War-era alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, primarily so they could rely on Article 5 protection, which dictates that if any one member state of NATO is attacked by a foreign adversary, all of the other member states must come to their defense. Ukraine, not being a member of NATO, has thus not been able to rely on the full support of the European bloc and, as the war has dragged on for much longer than expected, has been pleading for aid and resources from nations that it is technically not aligned with.