Updated Aug 3, 2022 - World

Senate votes to ratify NATO membership for Finland and Sweden

Finnish President Finland Sauli Niinisto (third from right) and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (fourth from right) meet a bipartisan group of senators in May. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Senate voted 95 to 1 Wednesday to ratify the applications of Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance, clearing the two-thirds threshold needed for approval.

Why it matters: All 30 NATO members must approve the applications of the two Nordic states, which had both been neutral for decades but sought out the NATO security umbrella after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The big picture: The countries had been on course to accede to NATO in record time until Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced his intention to use his veto. He has since lifted that threat while insisting he could still freeze the process if his security demands aren't met.

  • Speedy approvals are expected to continue across the rest of the alliance. After Wednesday's Senate vote, the Biden administration will formally submit the U.S. approval.
  • Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the lone senator to vote against the measure.
NATO members in Europe
Data: NATO; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

What he's saying: President Biden thanked senators in a statement for quickly ratifying the applications, calling them "the fastest Senate process for a NATO protocol since 1981."

  • "This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan U.S. commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our Alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow," Biden said.
  • "I look forward to signing the accession protocols and welcoming Sweden and Finland, two strong democracies with highly capable militaries, into the greatest defensive alliance in history," he added.

Go deeper: Why NATO formed and why Finland and Sweden want to join the alliance

Go deeper