July 28, 2022

Risch: Senate Should Vote on Finland, Sweden Joining NATO Without Delay

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor advocating for the Senate to proceed quickly to the consideration of the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

Watch Risch’s full floor remarks on YouTube here  

Highlights:

 “The Senate has the opportunity to expand NATO and bring both Finland and Sweden into the alliance,” said Risch. “[These two nations] have strong and capable militaries, and are already net contributors to the security alliance.”

“This accession process is an important chance for the U.S. to demonstrate leadership in NATO and commitment to its modernization and very importantly, NATO’s future,” continued Risch. “SFRC has carefully consulted and coordinated with our NATO allies, the governments of Sweden and Finland, with the administration, and within the Senate itself to ensure this process could move as efficiently and quickly as possible.”

“We now have only one step left until ratification, and it makes no sense to not prioritize the vote at this stage. There should be no issue with moving this treaty as quickly as possible,” concluded Risch. “The Senate’s quick ratification of Finland and Sweden as new members of NATO will both send a strong message of transatlantic unity to a now floundering Russia, and strengthen NATO against Russia’s growing threat.”

A transcript of Risch’s full remarks is below:

“Mr. President, I rise today to urge the Senate to proceed quickly to the consideration of the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

“Once again, the Senate has been given the responsibility of offering advice and consent to ratifying the accession of two new members to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We’ve been advising aggressively for quite some time, and it is time now to move to the consent portion. NATO is the most successful political-military alliance in history. It helped bring down the Soviet Union and united Europe so it could rebuild economically.

“The Senate has the opportunity to expand NATO and bring both Finland and Sweden into the alliance. Over the years, these countries never sought membership – they were content to just partner with NATO, but not join. However, Putin’s attempt to rewrite the security landscape in Europe with his invasion of Ukraine convinced the people of Finland and Sweden that they should become formal members of NATO. And why wouldn’t it?

“Over the past two weeks, and really the entire summer, the Senate Foreign Relations committee has carefully considered and discussed the prospective membership of our longtime partners, Finland and Sweden.

“The Senate has already shown bipartisan support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO. As my colleagues and I have laid out in a resolution of support, in public statements, at SFRC’s hearing in June, and in the committee report submitted to the floor along with the protocols, Finland and Sweden will make model members of the NATO alliance.

“Once approved by all 30 current members of NATO, these two nations will become integral members of the alliance. Both have strong and capable militaries, and are already net contributors to the security alliance. Although militarily unaligned for decades, Finland and Sweden have long-defended Europe’s high north – a region becoming even more important with competition from Russia and China in the Arctic.

“Both have already demonstrated the interoperability and commitment necessary to join the alliance. Finland already spends more than 2% of its GDP on defense, and Sweden laid out its plan to reach that mark shortly – a requirement for joining NATO.

“These countries also bring additional capabilities to NATO. Both are intimately familiar with the north and east flank of Europe. Finland also trains U.S. forces in cold weather operations and the Finnish Navy is especially suited to operate and defend the Baltic Sea where some U.S. navy’s ships have less maneuverability.

“They have both participated in NATO missions in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Iraq. In fact, these countries operated with less restrictions on their militaries in these missions than other NATO members. Finland and Sweden also share our democratic values, have strong militaries and defense industries, and extensive experience in Russian matters.

“One only has to look at a map to see the benefits of adding Finland and Sweden to NATO. With their proximity to the Baltic states – which are small – they are well positioned to provide support, if needed, to our current Baltic NATO allies. Just as the rest of NATO would if the Baltic states have a problem with Russia. Adding these two nations as full members to our alliance will further deter any temptation by Russia to engage in military adventurism in the Baltic or Arctic regions.

“Although, my sense is Russia has already learned this year of the ineptitude, clumsiness, and just plain inabilities of its way-overrated military which can’t even win against a small, less equipped adversary – even when Russia uses barbaric, medieval tactics. Russia’s efforts have been pitiful, and, at the same time, despicable.

“Many senators have already given firm statements of support for this accession, and we deserve the timely chance to make our support known through a vote. There are few things more important than voting on accession for Finland and Sweden to NATO. 

“This accession process is an important chance for the U.S. to demonstrate leadership in NATO and commitment to its modernization and very importantly, NATO’s future. When the war is over in Ukraine, it won’t truly be over. There’s no doubt that NATO is going to take a long, hard look at what it’s doing, what its priorities are, and very importantly, hardening its Eastern and Northern Flanks.  

“Since this wave of NATO enlargement was first announced, SFRC has carefully consulted and coordinated with our NATO allies, the governments of Sweden and Finland, with the administration, and within the Senate itself to ensure this process could move as efficiently and quickly as possible. I can’t count the number of meetings and conversations we’ve had in this regard. We now have only one step left until ratification, and it makes no sense to not prioritize the vote at this stage.

“There should be no issue with moving this treaty as quickly as possible. The Senate’s quick ratification of Finland and Sweden as new members of NATO will both send a strong message of transatlantic unity to a now floundering Russia, and strengthen NATO against Russia’s growing threat.

“Thank you, Madam President.”

Download Risch’s full floor remarks on Google Drive here .

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