Senate votes to add Finland, Sweden to NATO

The Senate voted to add Finland and Sweden to NATO on Wednesday in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Hill reports that the vote was an overwhelming 95-1, with just one Republican, “America First” Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), dissenting.

Senate votes to add Finland, Sweden to NATO

Hawley said that America should focus on countering China, not Russia.

“We cannot strengthen our deterrent posture in the Pacific if we’re sending more forces and resources to Europe to defend new allies. That’s the bottom line,” Hawley said.

NATO’s continuous expansion since the end of the Cold War has long angered Russia, and Vladimir Putin has justified the war in Ukraine as a reaction to alleged Western provocations. Finland shares 800 miles of border with Russia that NATO members would be obligated to defend.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) touted the vote as a rejection of the “isolationist” sentiment President Trump, a NATO skeptic, brought into the Republican party. McConnell had visited Finland and Sweden earlier this year to build support for their entry into the alliance.

“The one thing I was concerned about, particularly at that point, was this sort of growing isolationist sentiment in the party, to some extent, given voice by President Trump,” McConnell said.

Western unity weakening

Citing fears of escalation, NATO has declined to intervene directly in the Ukraine conflict despite vehement appeals from the country’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky. NATO has also been reluctant to let Ukraine, which struggles with endemic corruption, join the alliance.

But those in favor of NATO expansion say that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine invigorated the alliance.

“Enlarging NATO is exactly the opposite of what Putin envisioned when he ordered his tanks to invade Ukraine,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Still, there are signs that the West’s unified front against Russia has weakened as the conflict drags on and its burdens, such as food and energy inflation, pile up for people in the West. Russia’s leverage over Europe as a gas supplier is also a significant factor.

The Biden administration has nevertheless pledged to continue supporting Ukraine until it is victorious. The war has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars in foreign aid and counting.

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