June 22, 2022

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on NATO Enlargement

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on NATO Enlargement: Examining the Proposed Accession of Sweden and Finland. The committee heard witness testimony from The Honorable Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, and The Honorable Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“Welcome assistant secretaries – we’re glad to have you here to discuss this important subject. And welcome to both of you, ambassadors. I would like to thank you personally, and other officials from your countries, for spending the time discussing these important issues.

“The ambassador from Finland and I were early to the party, having met on this long before the invasion occurred with the obvious view that this day might come.

“With that, let me say also that the chairman and I have discussed this matter at length between ourselves and there is no daylight between us on this matter.

“Almost four months ago, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent a seismic shock through the transatlantic community. It made it abundantly clear that the assumptions many had made about security in the 21 st century were false or at least misperceived, and forced us to reconsider how we will restore peace and preserve it.

“Our immediate response has been strong, but there is no doubt NATO needs serious updates and reforms if we hope to face these emerging challenges over the long-term. One of these proposed changes is the enlargement of our alliance to include Finland and Sweden.

“In this hearing today, I look forward to a deep and thorough discussion of Finland and Sweden’s potential accession to NATO. Any country that meets the requirements like Sweden and Finland should be able to join if they want.

“Sweden and Finland both have strong democracies and capable militaries that will contribute immediately to NATO. Through their participation in multiple joint combat operations, they have both proven their willingness and ability to fight alongside NATO allies. And through multiple NATO partnership programs, they have proven their commitment to NATO’s goals and developed highly-interoperable, NATO-standard forces.

“Let us also be clear, Sweden and Finland, in particular, have been guarding NATO’s high north for decades. They have been doing the mission of NATO from the outside. This has been an asset to NATO and transatlantic security. It is fair that they be allowed to finally sit at the table with everyone else. 

“With this hearing, the Senate will take its first official step in considering this next wave of NATO enlargement. Throughout this entire process, we must remember to take the utmost care as we examine the details and implications of this decision. In my mind, both countries have fully demonstrated their worthiness to join NATO and the value they each will bring to it. But we cannot leave any room for doubt about their place and commitment in our alliance.

“I also want to reiterate my expectation that once the North Atlantic Council agrees and sends out the accession protocols, the Biden Administration will swiftly prepare the final reports and submit everything to the Senate quickly so we can begin our consideration.

“In closing, let me say, addressing the issue the chairman also raised regarding Turkey’s remarks about not being in favor accession at this time – we’re told and assured by both Sweden and Finland that they have been involved with Turkey in good faith to resolve that. I think that it is best left to them, without us, at this point in time. But, let there be no mistake, this must be done.

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, back over to you.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.

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