US Senate committee backs Swedish Nato membership

The US Senate on Tuesday took its first step towards bringing Sweden and Finland into Nato, with bipartisan support for the new alliance members following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

US Senate committee backs Swedish Nato membership
US Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) looks on during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, DC. The US Senate on July 19, 2022, took its first step towards bringing Sweden and Finland into NATO, with bipartisan support for the new alliance members following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Bonnie Cash/POOL/AFP

All 30 members of NATO must ratify the accession of the two Nordic countries, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week again
threatened to freeze their bids despite his assent during a summit in late June in Madrid.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution to ratify their membership with nearly unanimous support, all but guaranteeing that the
full Senate will follow suit in the coming weeks.

The committee’s chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, called the accession of Finland and Sweden “undoubtedly one of the most consequential foreign policy successes in recent years.”

“As US foreign policy priorities evolve to account for a changing world, what is self-evident is the future of the transatlantic partnership will be
even more intertwined and integrated thanks to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s recklessness,” he said in a statement.

A dissonant note came from Senator Rand Paul, a Republican skeptical of military engagements. He proposed an amendment, promptly rejected, that would stress that only the US Congress has the right to declare war under the Constitution.

Under NATO’s Article Five, any attack on a member of the Western alliance — founded in 1949 at the start of the Cold War with the Soviet Union — is
considered an attack on all. Sweden and Finland have historically sought not to antagonize their giant neighbor to the east and had shied away from joining NATO, despite frequent exercises and cooperation.

But the mood quickly changed after Russia shocked Europe on February 24 by invading Ukraine, which had tried but failed for years to join NATO.

White House spokesman John Kirby said that the Finnish and Swedish militaries had “incredibly modern capabilities” and that the countries’
accession would “contribute significantly to the Article Five commitment.

“We urge Congress to act as quickly as possible,” he told reporters.

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Turkey forms ‘permanent committee’ to assess Swedish Nato deal

Turkey on Thursday said a new "permanent committee" would meet Finnish and Swedish officials in August to assess if the two nations are complying with Ankara's conditions to ratify their Nato membership bids.

Turkey forms 'permanent committee' to assess Swedish Nato deal

Finland and Sweden dropped their history of military non-alignment and announced plans to join Nato after Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of
February. All 30 Nato members must ratify the accession.

Nato member Turkey has demanded the extradition of dozens of suspected “terrorists” from both countries under an accession deal the three signed last month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to “freeze” the process over Sweden and Finland’s failure to extradite the suspects.

He accuses them of providing a haven for outlawed Kurdish militants. “If these countries are not implementing the points included in the
memorandum that we signed, we will not ratify the accession protocol,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reaffirmed in a televised interview.

He said the committee would meet in August but provided no details.Turkey’s parliament has broken for its summer recess and will not be able
to hold a ratification vote before October. Some Turkish officials have warned that the process may drag out until next year.