OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
In a 95 to 1 vote that united Republicans and Democrats, the U.S. Senate agreed to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
The only vote against adding the two nations to NATO came from Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who penned a piece for The National Interest explaining his reasoning ahead of the vote.
“Finland and Sweden want to join the Atlantic Alliance to head off further Russian aggression in Europe. 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,” he said.
“America shouldn’t abandon NATO. But it’s time for our European allies to do more. In particular, they must take primary responsibility for the conventional defense of Europe by investing more in their own militaries. All the way back in 2006, NATO member states pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on national defense. It should be higher. The United States spends far more than that on defense. But many NATO members still haven’t met even this minimal commitment,” the senator argued.
“As to Sweden and Finland, both nations are advanced economies, with capable militaries. But they haven’t yet made the policy commitments appropriate to their geostrategic positions. Sweden doesn’t spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense and won’t for years to come. And Finland, though it announced a one-time defense spending boost, hasn’t made clear whether it will sustain these levels. In the event of a future conflict in Europe, U.S. forces would almost certainly be called in to defend both countries,” he said.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio argued against Sen. Hawley’s reasoning.
“We don’t beat China by retreating from the rest of the world,” Sen. Cruz said. “We beat China by standing with our allies against our enemies.”
“A stronger NATO allows America to focus on the threat of Communist China,” Sen. Rubio said in his own op-ed.
“A strong and unified NATO is a powerful asset in the contest with Beijing,” he said. “When Finland and Sweden join the alliance’s ranks and the free peoples of Europe become stronger than ever, more US resources will be available to focus on countering Communist China. If we do not rise to the challenge, it will be too late, and Americans will be held hostage by a totalitarian regime half a world away.”
President Joe Biden cheered the Senate’s vote.
“This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan U.S. commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our Alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. I thank the members of the Senate – especially Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Senator Menendez and Senator Risch — for their leadership and for quickly advancing the ratification process, the fastest Senate process for a NATO protocol since 1981. Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance will further strengthen NATO’s collective security and deepen the transatlantic partnership,” the president said.
“As I told Prime Minister Andersson and President Niinistö when I hosted them at the White House in May, the United States remains committed to the security of Sweden and Finland. 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,” he said.
“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 said.