Sullivan, Senate Ratify Accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO Alliance

Senate approves Sullivan amendment declaring all NATO allies should meet their funding obligations

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today voted to ratify a resolution of advice and consent for the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). For new members to join the NATO alliance, every existing member must approve a country’s accession. For the United States, this responsibility falls under the “advice and consent” duties of the U.S. Senate, the body tasked with approving treaties. The Senate also approved Sen. Sullivan’s amendment declaring that all NATO allies should meet their funding obligations.

“As both Presidents Truman and Reagan remarked, members of the NATO alliance are like members of the same house and the same family—the house and the family of democracy,” said Sen. Sullivan. “Today, the U.S. Senate will welcome the nations of Sweden and Finland into the NATO family. Like any family, we may not agree on everything, but when it’s most important, we will have each other’s back. That is the essence of NATO and the core reason for its success.” 

The Senate unanimously approved Sen. Sullivan’s amendment to the resolution of ratification, declaring that all NATO members should spend a minimum of two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense and 20 percent of their defense budgets on “major equipment, including research and development,” by 2024, as outlined in the 2014 Wales Summit Declaration. 

“I am a very strong supporter of NATO and the U.S. military, and I want NATO to endure for decades to come,” said Sen. Sullivan. “But alliances can’t endure if shared commitments and shared burdens are not met…There must be a sense among the citizens of such countries that all are pulling their weight for the collective defense of the alliance, for the collective defense of each other. I thank my colleagues for supporting my amendment, sending a clear message from the Senate about America’s expectation that each NATO member fulfill its commitments.” 

Full transcript

Madam President, it is always good to follow my friend from Delaware, Navy Captain Carper, who is a Vietnam vet, a naval aviator--the whole works. It is an honor to serve with him on the EPW and other committees. So thank you to my good friend from Delaware. 

Madam President, after World War II, European leaders looked to the United States to help heal a fractured world and to help provide safety against increasing communist Russian aggression. As Winston Churchill said: 

There I sat with the great Russian bear on one side of me with paws outstretched and, on the other side, the great American Buffalo.

Well, the Buffalo prevailed, NATO prevailed, and the world's most successful and enduring military alliance was born. 

In 1949, the Senate ratified the NATO treaty by a vote of 82 to 13. President Truman was quoted at the signing ceremony of the NATO treaty by saying:

In this pact, we hope to create a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression . . . For us, war is not inevitable. 

He continued:

Men with courage and vision can still determine their own destiny. They can choose slavery or freedom--war or peace. . . . The treaty we are signing here today is evidence of the path they will follow. 

That was when President Truman signed the first NATO treaty. And, indeed, since the formation of NATO, no world wars have broken out, no country that is a signatory of NATO has been invaded by another country's military forces. In fact, the only time NATO's article V--which is the pillar of the alliance, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all--was invoked was actually after the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11. Our allies came to our help to ensure Afghanistan wouldn't harbor terrorists, and we appreciate that help. We appreciate it deeply from our NATO allies.

NATO, however, is more than just a military alliance. It is a group of countries with shared values and beliefs and a commitment to the principles of democracy. All of this, in addition to the military alliance, is the heritage of NATO. 

President Ronald Reagan summed it up succinctly in a speech to our NATO allies in 1983: 

What do the Soviets mean by words like democracy, freedom, and peace? Not, I'm sorry to say, what we mean.

Replace the word ``Soviet'' with ``Russia,'' and the sentiment, unfortunately, holds true today. We see the antithesis of these democratic values and shared beliefs of NATO being played out in real time before us in the streets of Ukraine, where Vladimir Putin is leading a brutal assault on Ukraine--Russia's democratic neighbor--and committing atrocities, horrible atrocities, against the brave people of that country. 

As both Presidents Truman and Reagan remarked, members of the NATO alliance are like members of the same house in the same family--the house and the family of democracy. 

So, today, the U.S. Senate will welcome the nations of Sweden and Finland into the NATO family. Like any family, we may not agree on everything, but when it is most important, we will have each other's back. That is the essence of NATO and the core reason for its success. 

Neither Russia nor any other country will be able to invade Sweden or Finland, now that they have become members of NATO, without its NATO allies coming to their support.

Of course, Finland has experienced the Russian invasion. In 1939, where, without the help from other nations, its greatly outnumbered brave Finnish army fought off over 1 million Russian forces for 3 months. But that won't happen again to Finland. It won't happen to Sweden. They won't be alone now.

We welcome these countries' commitment to freedom and their advanced professional militaries, which will make NATO stronger.

To Finland and Sweden, no longer will you be working with NATO. You will now be working in and part of the greatest defense alliance in history. So welcome to these great countries.

As Churchill once said: 

There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them!

I strongly support the inclusion of these two great nations, Sweden and Finland, into the NATO alliance. Important occasions like this are also an opportunity to reflect on the obligations of membership, not just for these new NATO members but for all NATO members.

And on the heels of the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, the heads of state and representatives of the then-28 member countries who made up NATO attended a very important summit, a NATO summit, in Wales. There, they agreed upon a common goal for all NATO members that they would spend a minimum of 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. This 2 percent of GDP NATO defense spending goal has been strongly supported for decades by American administrations, both Republican and Democratic: Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump, and now President Biden. 

At the time, in 2014, of the NATO summit in Wales, 10 of the 28 members of NATO met that 2-percent guideline. Now, 8 years later in 2022, of the 30 NATO country members, we only have 8 of those 30 meeting that 2-percent threshold. 

I have a chart here. It lays out the 2-percent goal: who is above it, who is below it. It is many other countries besides the ones that are listed there. But the bottom line is, since Wales and that important commitment, there has not been much progress in NATO on this shared goal and commitment.

 Now, I am a very strong supporter of NATO and a very strong supporter of the U.S. military, and I want NATO to endure for decades to come. But alliances can't endure if shared commitments and shared burdens are not met. This is particularly true for democratic alliances like NATO. There must be a sense among the citizens of such countries that all are pulling their weight for the collective defense of the alliance, for the collective defense of each other. 

So as I mentioned at the outset, I am calling up an amendment to the resolution. My amendment is to make this commitment clear. It is to announce the U.S. Senate's expectation for all NATO members: the United States, existing members, and now new members--expectations on what has already been agreed to by each NATO country and its citizens.

The amendment is simple. It states the following:

The Senate declares that all NATO members should spend a minimum of 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product . . . on defense and 20 percent of their defense budget on major equipment, including research and development, by 2024, as outlined in the 2014 Wales Summit Declaration.

That is it. It is a simple amendment, and I hope it can pass in the next hour by voice vote.

Let me conclude with this: A robust, expanded NATO with Finland and Sweden as new members is needed now more than ever, especially given the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We need to fully understand the broader implications of this invasion. We have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression, led by Russia and China's dictators, who are increasingly isolated and dangerous, driven by historical grievances, paranoid about their democratic neighbors, and willing to use military force and other aggressive actions to crush the citizens of such countries. These dangerous dictators, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, are increasingly working together to achieve their aggressive goals. 

We must wake up to the fact that this new era of authoritarian aggression will likely be with us for decades. We need to face it with strategic resolve and confidence. The United States has extraordinary advantages relative to the dictatorships of Russia and China, if we are wise enough to utilize and strengthen them: our global network of allies, our lethal military, our world-class supplies of energy and other natural resources, our dynamic economy, and, most important, our democratic values and commitment to liberty.

Xi Jinping and Putin's biggest weakness and vulnerability is that they fear their own people. We should remember this and exploit this in the months and years ahead. NATO, as an alliance, encompasses so many of these powerful comparative advantages: a lethal military, a global network of allies, dynamic economies, and the power of democratic values and the commitment to liberty.

We should all welcome and celebrate the addition of Finland and Sweden to the NATO alliance, but we should also use this moment to recognize the seriousness of the authoritarian threats on the rise all over the world and recommit ourselves, all NATO members, to our obligations of collective defense, moving forward.

I yield the floor.

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