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More than 80 US senators commit to expedite approval of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

A group of more than 80 senators across both parties have committed to expediting the approval of Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership applications in the Senate and called on President Joe Biden to do the same in the executive branch.

In the letter to Biden sent Tuesday, the senators also said they give their “full support for the United States to provide mutual security assurances to the governments of Sweden and Finland.”

“Should these two allies face threats or acts of aggression prior to their potential accession to the alliance, the United States should commit our full support,” wrote the senators, led by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Thom Tillis, the co-chairs of the Senate NATO Observer Group.

Sweden and Finland simultaneously submitted their applications for NATO last Wednesday, marking a major geopolitical shift spurred by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The two nations had long been partners of the defensive alliance, but were prompted by the war to seek formal membership.

Last Thursday, Biden met with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House and expressed strong support for their membership.

“The President, Prime Minister, and I committed that we’re going to work together to remain vigilant against the threats to our shared security and to deter and confront any aggression while Finland and Sweden are in this accession process,” Biden said in remarks following the meeting.

As part of the accession process, NATO prepares accession protocols to the Washington Treaty — the founding document of NATO — which are sent to each of the NATO members to be signed and ratified. In the United States, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to approve the new members.

In their letter, the senators said they “take seriously (their) role in advising and consenting to NATO enlargement,” and said they pledged to work with the administration and their fellow senators to make sure that Finland and Sweden’s applications “are swiftly considered and approved by the Senate.”

In a statement to CNN, Shaheen said that “the NATO Alliance has proven to be our strongest defense against the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine to not only help our Ukrainian partners at this perilous time, but also enforce global stability and protect democracies around the world.”

Sweden and Finland’s historic actions to join the Alliance illustrate how fundamental NATO is to those ends,” the New Hampshire Democrat said. “Time is of the essence, and the United States must act swiftly and encourage our NATO Allies to quickly follow suit.”

All NATO members must unanimously approve new member states. Turkey has indicated it does not currently support NATO membership for Finland and Sweden. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last week that the US remains “confident that Turkey’s concerns will be addressed and that we’ll be able to reach consensus as an Alliance on the accession process for Finland and Sweden.”

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