US Senate panel approves Finland, Sweden NATO bids

Committee vote met without opposition, sending matter to full Senate.

US Senate panel approves Finland, Sweden NATO bids

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Tuesday to approve Sweden’s and Finland's NATO memberships, setting up a vote in the wider chamber.

The passage of what are known as the Nordic countries' ascension protocols was met without opposition during a voice vote. The only vote not in approval came from Republican Senator Rand Paul, who voted "present."

The Senate is widely expected to provide far more than the needed two-thirds majority required for final approval. A floor vote could happen as soon as next week.

The committee's vote fulfills "our duty to help determine how, when & with whom the US brings to bear the power of our diplomatic & military alliance," Senator Bob Menendez wrote on Twitter. "Their membership will be a force multiplier for stability & democracy.”

Jim Risch, the ranking Republican on the committee, urged the Senate to "move swiftly" to take up and pass the nations' NATO memberships, saying they are "longtime friends and partners to both the United States and to NATO."

"Their strong political traditions and military capabilities will provide an immediate benefit to the alliance," he said in a statement.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join the transatlantic alliance in June, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine. But Türkiye, a longstanding member of the alliance, voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terror groups.

A trilateral agreement signed between the countries in June stipulates that Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the YPG/PYD, the PKK's Syrian offshoot, nor FETO, and said Ankara extends full support to Finland and Sweden against threats to their national security.

All 30 standing NATO allies need to approve any expansion.

The State Department said Monday that it is working to ensure Finland’s and Sweden's ascension is "as swift and efficient as it can possibly be."

"There is strong consensus and support within the NATO Alliance for their accession, knowing that the accession of these two longstanding partners, these two great democracies, will make the Alliance stronger, will make it more effective, and will contribute to the underlying mission of the NATO Alliance," spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Hüseyin Demir