The Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a resolution to ratify membership for Sweden and Finland in NATO, a historic vote aimed at strengthening the defense bloc amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
NATO formalized its invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance at the end of June and the decision must go to the 30 member states’ parliaments and legislatures for final ratification.
President Joe Biden sent the protocols for ratification to the Senate in July, paving the way for the vote, which needed to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate to succeed. The final tally of the Senate vote was 95 to 1, with GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri voting in opposition and GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky voting present.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday that the vote to approve the resolution of ratification for Sweden and Finland’s application to NATO would take place and said that he had invited the ambassadors from Finland and Sweden to join in the gallery during debate and votes.
“Our NATO alliance is the bedrock that has guaranteed democracy in the western world since the end of World War II. This strengthens NATO even further and is particularly needed in light of recent Russian aggression,” Schumer said in remarks from the Senate floor.
“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,” Schumer said.
Once the Senate approves Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession protocols, “the next step in the ratification process is for the President to sign an instrument of ratification of the treaty,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN.
“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,” which in the case of NATO, is the Department, the spokesperson said.
These steps will not happen on the same day that the Senate approves, and the final arrangements for depositing the instrument of ratification have not yet been made, the spokesperson told CNN.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted in remarks on the floor on Wednesday ahead of the vote that it would be, “as decisive as it is bipartisan.”
McConnell argued that admitting Sweden and Finland to NATO will “only strengthen the most successful military alliance in human history.”
McConnell also used his floor time to take aim at lawmakers who do not support the resolution.
“If any senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote no, I wish them good luck,” he said. “This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.”
Sweden and Finland both announced their intention to join NATO in May, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a sudden shift in attitudes toward joining the bloc.
The reason most countries join NATO is because of Article 5, which stipulates that all signatories consider an attack on one member an attack against all. Article 5 has been a cornerstone of the alliance since it was founded in 1949 as a counterweight to the Soviet Union.
Hawley explained his position on the issue in a recent op-ed in The National Interest titled “Why I won’t Vote to Add Sweden and Finland to NATO.”
“Finland and Sweden want to join the Atlantic Alliance to head off further Russian aggression in Europe,” he wrote. “That is entirely understandable given their location and security needs. But 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 when it comes to Chinese imperialism, the American people should know the truth: the United States is not ready to resist it. Expanding American security commitments in Europe now would only make that problem worse—and America, less safe.”
Paul similarly outlined his position in an op-ed in the American Conservative.
“As for Sweden and Finland, 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,” he wrote. “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, and will as a consequence vote ‘present.’”