WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a treaty that would expand NATO to include Finland and Sweden, with Republicans and Democrats linking arms to pave the way for one of the most significant expansions of the alliance in decades amid Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine.
The vote was 95 to 1, with only Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, opposing the move. The lopsided tally, far surpassing the two-thirds support necessary to approve a treaty, underscored the bipartisan appetite for a more muscular Western military alliance even amid threats from Russian officials that Sweden and Finland would face retaliation should they join NATO.
“Finland’s and Sweden’s membership will strengthen NATO even further, and is all the more urgent given Russian aggression, given Putin’s immoral and unjustified war in Ukraine,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “Putin is strengthening the NATO alliance, and nothing shows it better” than the Senate’s resounding approval of the pact.
All 30 current members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must ratify the accession of the two countries. Twenty-two countries have already done so, but as recently as two weeks ago, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was threatening to block Finland and Sweden’s membership bids, which would prolong the process.
Still, the approval of the United States is a crucial step, and the vote was a triumph for President Biden. It was a vindication of his push to rally Western allies to confront Mr. Putin’s brutal campaign in Ukraine and a step toward fulfilling his pledge as a presidential candidate to restore the alliances frayed badly during the Trump era and reassert the role of the United States in protecting democracy around the world.
“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,” Mr. Biden said in a statement, adding that he looked forward to welcoming “two strong democracies with highly capable militaries, into the greatest defensive alliance in history.”
Democrats argued that adding Sweden and Finland to NATO would reduce the burden on the United States and the broader alliance.
“More than ever, it is crystal clear that NATO plays a vital role for the security of the United States and as a bulwark in protecting peace and democracies throughout the world,” said Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
“Seventy years ago, democratic nations of Europe and the United States came together to defend the liberty, freedom and individual rights of their citizens from the threat of a militarized Soviet Union,” Mr. Menendez continued. “Now — as then — the defensive alliance serves as a bulwark of stability and the rule of law for the people of its member states.”
The vote margin also reflected a striking repudiation by Republicans of the “America First” philosophy espoused by President Donald J. Trump, who was openly contemptuous of NATO and of American commitments to…
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