The US has approved the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. The US Senate almost unanimously ratified the defense alliance's northern expansion on Wednesday after a rare unanimity between Democrats and Republicans earlier in favor of it.
Across party lines, 95 senators voted in favor - only one voted against. The two Nordic EU states had applied to be included in the western defense alliance in the course of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
Including the USA, 23 of the 30 NATO members have given their consent to dual membership. Germany had already done so in early July. Italy also joined on Wednesday evening: After the House of Representatives at the beginning of the week, the Senate and thus the second chamber of the Italian Parliament also voted in favor of the alliance's northern expansion on Wednesday evening.
Swift response from US Senate
The United States is by far the largest NATO country. US President Joe Biden had campaigned for the admission of Finland and Sweden and sent the relevant documents to the Senate for consideration in July. With the vote before the summer break, the Senate reacted faster than average. The US House of Representatives supported the project in July by passing a resolution.
Sweden and Finland thanked Washington for the speedy ratification. "The strong, cross-party support and the quick vote for our countries to join the alliance are very much appreciated," said Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Thursday night on Twitter. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said through his ministry that they look forward to working with the United States as a reliable NATO ally.
So far, Finland and Sweden have not been members, but have been close partners of NATO. Before the accession protocols can come into force, they must be ratified by all 30 previous NATO member states. Seven are still missing: Hungary, the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey.
The greatest uncertainty in the accession process continues to come from Turkey. Ankara was initially the only country to block the start of the process, citing alleged Swedish and Finnish support for "terrorist organizations" as the reason for this stance. At the end of June, the three countries then signed a declaration of intent that addressed Turkey's reservations.
Recently, however, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again threatened a blockade. He wanted to remind people that Turkey would "freeze the process" if the conditions were not met, he said in mid-July. On Friday he wanted to meet Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Russian seaside resort of Sochi.