August 5, 2022 | Policy Brief

U.S. Senate votes 95-1 to add Finland and Sweden to NATO alliance

August 5, 2022 | Policy Brief

U.S. Senate votes 95-1 to add Finland and Sweden to NATO alliance

The U.S. Senate voted 95-1 on Wednesday to add Finland and Sweden to the NATO alliance. The overwhelming vote is a major rebuke of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a resounding expression of American commitment to the alliance and transatlantic security.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on July 19 to approve the “resolution of advice and consent to ratify the NATO accession protocols for Sweden and Finland.” More than two weeks later, nearly all senators voted to support ratification. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was the lone “no” vote, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) voting “present.” Three senators did not vote.

The Senate considered two amendments, including one from Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) that was approved unanimously. It declared that “all NATO members should spend a minimum of 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense and 20 percent of their defense budgets on major equipment, including research and development, by 2024, as outlined in the 2014 Wales Summit Declaration.”

According to a June 27 report by NATO, the good news is that the aggregate defense expenditures of America’s NATO allies increased each year on a real basis since 2014, the year Putin invaded and illegally annexed Crimea.

The bad news is that only nine of the 30 current NATO members (including the United States) are estimated to be spending 2 percent or more of their GDP this year on defense expenditures. When it comes to spending at least 20 percent of defense expenditures on equipment, the performance of alliance members is better, with only six members falling short in 2022 (including Iceland, which has no armed forces). The equipment expenditure statistic includes procurement and construction of major equipment and related research and development. It does not include military and civilian personnel costs or pensions.

Frustrated that too many NATO members were not spending enough on defense, former President Donald Trump (both as a candidate and as president) suggested that the United States might not honor its Article 5 commitment to its allies if they did not spend more on defense.

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states, “An armed attack against one or more [allies] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” While each ally certainly should meet its defense spending commitments and carry its share of the security burden, threatening not to honor Article 5 invites the very aggression from Moscow that NATO was established to prevent.

The other amendment, which was offered by Sen. Paul, sought to insert language declaring that “Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty does not supersede the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war before the United States engages in war.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) argued that adopting Paul’s amendment might leave some with the impression that the United States is “going wobbly on Article 5.” That article’s declaration — and the political will and military power that stand behind it — represents the primary reason Moscow has not dared to invade any NATO member for more than seven decades, even as Russia has invaded and occupied parts of Georgia and Ukraine (which are outside NATO).

Romney also noted that Paul’s amendment was unnecessary based on the plain text of Article 11 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that the treaty’s provisions will be “carried out by the Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.”

Most senators apparently agreed. Paul’s amendment was defeated resoundingly, receiving 10 “yes” votes and 87 “no” votes.

Following Wednesday’s Senate vote, only seven NATO members have yet to ratify Finland and Sweden’s accession into the alliance. They include the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Turkey.

If they do so, Finland and Sweden will bring valuable additional combat capabilities to the alliance and create new dilemmas for Russian military planners and leaders contemplating additional aggression.

That is good for the United States and Europe — and bad for Putin.

Bradley Bowman serves as senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Jack Sullivan is a research associate. For more analysis from the authors and CMPP, please subscribe HERE. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CMPP. Follow Bradley on Twitter @Brad_L_Bowman. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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