The US Senate has ratified the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO, becoming the 23rd of the 30 member states to pave the way for one of the most significant expansions of the Western military alliance in decades.
The Senate voted 95 to 1 in favor of the two Nordic countries’ accession on Wednesday.
Only Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, opposed the resolution, arguing that the US should focus its foreign policy on China and keep American interests the country’s priority.
US President Joe Biden described the Senate’s quick ratification process as a “historic vote.”
Biden said in a statement that the move “sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan US commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our Alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”
Senate leader Chuck Schumer also hailed the move as a signal of Western unity.
“This is important substantively and as a signal to Russia: they cannot intimidate America or Europe,” Schumer said, referring to warnings from Moscow that Sweden and Finland would face retaliation should they join NATO.
“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin has tried to use his war in Ukraine to divide the West. Instead, today’s vote shows our alliance is stronger than ever,” he added.
Putin has said that the bid by the two Nordic countries posed no direct threat to his country, but Moscow would respond if NATO bolsters military infrastructure in the two Nordic states.
He also said that the United States used NATO’s possible eastward expansion in an “aggressive” way to aggravate an already difficult security situation in the world.
The Russian leader has on several occasions cited the post-Soviet expansion of the NATO alliance eastwards toward Russia’s borders as a reason for the military offensive he declared in Ukraine on February 24. Key to a list of Russian demands from the West prior to the offensive was a guarantee that Kiev would never be part of NATO.
According to a NATO list, seven member countries have yet to formally agree to the new entries: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey.
All 30 members of the alliance must agree if Finland and Sweden are admitted.