U.S. Senators formally signed off on expanding the Western military alliance Wednesday by ratifying NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, which obligates American forces to defend the European countries in the event of an attack.
While the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, Finland and Sweden submitted applications to join the alliance after NATO leaders formally invited the countries into the 30-member organization. Of those, 22 have already approved the two Scandinavian countries’ bid for accession.
The resolution passed, 95-1, with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) dissenting, citing that expanding American security commitments in Europe would only make the problem worse and the nation less safe. Hawley argued that the Chinese Communist Party is America’s greatest foreign adversary at the moment.
“Our foreign policy should be about protecting the United States, our freedoms, our people, our way of life,” Hawley said. “And expanding NATO, I believe, would not do that.”
Hawley, who just three years ago voted to allow North Macedonia into the alliance, notes the U.S. already spends nearly a trillion dollars a year on defense, and the nation has stretched its manpower thin worldwide.
“The United States must prioritize the defense resources we have for the China effort while there is still time,” Hawley said. “Until our European allies make the necessary commitments to their own national defense, we must not put more American lives at risk in Europe while allowing China’s power to grow unchecked.”
However, Hawley stood alone in his plea to reserve American resources against the 95 other senators across party lines who largely disagreed with his sentiments.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that adding Sweden and Finland to the alliance would improve burden sharing across the organization and called the vote decisive as it is bipartisan.
“There’s just no question that admitting these robust democratic countries with modern economies and capable, interoperable militaries will only strengthen the most successful military alliance in human history,” McConnell said. “If any senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote no, I wish him good luck.”
“This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support,” McConnell added. “Even closer cooperation with these partners will help us counter Russia and China.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said earlier that he and McConnell would ratify the resolution “as fast as we could,” citing Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.
“Our NATO alliance is the bedrock that has guaranteed democracy in the Western world since the end of World War II,” Schumer said.
Now that the Senate passed the resolution with well over the required two-thirds vote, it now heads to President Biden to submit to the allied leaders.