Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke Wednesday in support of Finnish and Swedish bids to join NATO ahead of a Senate vote later in the day that is expected to have broad but not unanimous support.
“Their accession will strengthen NATO and make America more secure,” McConnell said.
“If any senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote no, I wish them good luck,” he continued. “This is a national security knockout blow that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.”
Offers by the two European countries to join the military alliance are expected to have broad bipartisan support in the Senate.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said Monday he would vote against joining, arguing in an op-ed that the United States should focus on the more pressing threat from China rather than expanding its alliance with European countries.
A symbolic resolution supporting Finnish and Swedish NATO membership was rejected by just 18 House Republicans in a vote last month.
The two Nordic nations announced their desire to join NATO in May in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as domestic sentiment shifted sharply in favor of joining the alliance.
The alliance’s 30 member states must now approve the two countries’ offers for the effort to succeed. Twenty-two countries have already ratified their accession, while the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the United States have not yet formally signed it.
The only country to speak out against the additions was Turkey, which has since backed his ascension after negotiations over security guarantees.
McConnell on Wednesday reiterated his support for NATO offers from Finland and Sweden, noting that Finland already meets the alliance’s goal of having the countries spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, while Sweden was making “significant” investments in modernizing its army.
“There is simply no question that admitting these robust democratic countries with modern economies and capable interoperable militaries will only strengthen the most successful military alliance in human history,” McConnell said during his speech to the floor.