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U.S. Senate Votes to Accept Sweden and Finland in NATO

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to approve a treaty that would expand NATO to include Finland and Sweden, with Republicans and Democrats linking arms for one of the most significant expansions of the alliance in decades in the face of Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine.

The ambassadors of Finland and Sweden were on hand in the Senate gallery to watch as senators voted 95-1. Only Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, voted no. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, voted present.

The tally far surpassed the two-thirds of the Senate necessary to approve the treaty, underscoring the bipartisan appetite for a more muscular military alliance, even amid threats from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that Sweden and Finland would face unspecified retaliation should they join NATO.

All 30 current members of the alliance must ratify the accession of the two countries. Twenty-two countries have already done so.

Republican support for the treaty was particularly striking, given former President Donald J. Trump’s vocal contempt for NATO. Some G.O.P. lawmakers who aligned themselves with him have adopted Mr. Trump’s “America first” philosophy of eschewing alliances and the concept of shared responsibility for maintaining the global order.

But the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has made it a mission of late to push back against the anti-interventionist strain in his party.

In recent months, spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. McConnell made a point of forcefully and publicly rallying support for the kind of strong military presence abroad that was once viewed as Republican orthodoxy. He traveled to Ukraine, Sweden and Finland in May, in what he later described as a bid to show the world that Mr. Trump’s views on military aid and alliances did not hold sway over Republicans or drive the policy of the United States.

Mr. McConnell has argued that Sweden and Finland would be able to carry their share of the defense burden, which counters a frequently raised concern in conservative circles.

He also has made the case to fellow Republicans that “even closer cooperation” with the two nations would help the United States counter China, another argument invoked by Republicans contending that the United States needed to shift its defense resources away from Europe and toward Asia.

“Their accession will make NATO stronger and America more secure,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech from the Senate floor on Wednesday. “If any senator finds a defensible excuse to vote no, I wish them good luck.”


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