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US Senate approves NATO expansion

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Senators reject an amendment to clarify that NATO does not override congressional war powers

The US Senate has voted overwhelmingly to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership, another step towards expanding the US-led military bloc after its 30 members formally signed off engaged in this process.

Lawmakers approved the measure 95-1 on Wednesday, in what President Joe Biden called a “historic vote” who “sends an important signal of the United States’ sustained, bipartisan commitment to NATO.”

“The United States remains committed to the security of Sweden and Finland. We will continue to work to remain vigilant against any threats to our common security,” added the president, pledging to sign the protocols of accession to formally approve the accession of the two countries.

Missouri Republican Josh Hawley was the only senator to vote against ratification, arguing that “send more forces and resources to Europe to defend new allies” would not help “strengthen our deterrent posture in the Pacific”, where he and fellow Republicans have repeatedly warned of the alleged threat posed by China. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, meanwhile, voted “present,” the only other lawmaker not to endorse the resolution.

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A Republican with libertarian leanings, Paul also introduced an amendment that would have reaffirmed the power of Congress to declare war, stressing that the collective defense provisions of the NATO bloc do not supersede the US Constitution. He was beaten 10-87, with only a handful of Republicans backing the measure. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said the amendment could show “cracks” in Washington’s commitments to “mutual defense” and NATO support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

With Wednesday’s vote and President Biden’s signature, 20 of NATO’s 30 states will have ratified Stockholm and Helsinki’s membership, according to Hill. They need the alliance’s unanimous consent to join, and although both initially faced fierce resistance from Turkey, they appear to have reached tentative agreements to meet Ankara’s terms.

The two Nordic states applied for membership in May, breaking with decades of neutrality while citing Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Although Moscow has long expressed concerns about NATO’s eastward expansion – Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia – President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia “has no problem” with either country, and does not regard their membership as a “immediate threat”.

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