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Schumer, McConnell urge Biden to move quickly on NATO expansion

Top Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have signed onto a resolution backing Finland and Sweden joining NATO and urging President Joe Biden to expedite the process.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday they were co-sponsoring the resolution, which is symbolic but signals strong bipartisan support for the pair of European nations joining NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The non-binding resolution will be marked up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

May 19, 202202:06

The Senate isn’t expected to take up legislation approving NATO expansion until this summer. It requires support from two-thirds of senators, and is expected to pass easily.

The four-page resolution — authored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the leaders of the Foreign Relations Committee — states that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “has dramatically changed the security situation in Europe,” and that NATO expansion is critical to ensure the security of the U.S. and its European allies. 

Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia.

The resolution also calls on the Biden administration to “move expeditiously” to complete all of the documents and reports needed for the Senate to sign off on NATO expansion, and calls on other NATO members to quickly complete their own ratification process.

“As the world’s democracies unite against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his crony oligarchs, Finland and Sweden’s ascension into NATO will be a further rebuke of Putin’s murderous attack on Ukraine,” Schumer said in a statement.

“The people of Ukraine continue to fight bravely against Russian aggression and every democracy across the globe has an obligation to stand with Ukraine.”

Added McConnell: “Finland and Sweden are strong countries with formidable military capabilities that surpass many existing NATO allies. Both nations’ robust defense funding means their accession would meaningfully bolster our pursuit of greater burden-sharing across the alliance.”

Their statements come just days after Schumer, McConnell and other senators hosted Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Capitol Hill. The two European leaders also met with Biden during their visit to Washington.

That same day, the Senate voted 86-11 to pass $40 billion of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s bloody invasion. 

All of the 11 no votes came from Republicans, some of whom said they had not yet decided how they will vote on NATO expansion.

“I want to make sure it will not increase America’s security commitments in Europe. Certainly I want to make sure there is no need for more forces,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told reporters last week. “My view is that we need to be, on the whole, doing less in Europe and looking towards the Asia Pacific in terms of our foreign policy challenges.”

Julie Tsirkin and Frank Thorp V contributed.