WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden was due to sign documents on Tuesday approving Finland and Sweden’s membership of NATO, the military alliance’s biggest expansion since the 1990s in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The US Senate backed the expansion with a crushing 95-1 last week, a rare show of bipartisan unity in a bitterly divided Washington. Both Democratic and Republican senators strongly endorsed the two Nordic countries joining, describing them as important allies whose modern armies already work closely with NATO.
The vote stood in stark contrast to some rhetoric in Washington under former Republican President Donald Trump’s administration, which pursued an “America-first” foreign policy and criticized NATO allies for failing to meet their defense spending targets.
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in response to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly warned both countries against joining the alliance.
United States ratifies Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership
The 30 NATO allies last month signed Sweden and Finland’s accession protocol, allowing them to join the nuclear alliance once all member states ratify the decision.
Membership must be ratified by the parliaments of the 30 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization before Finland and Sweden can be protected by Article Five, the defense clause stipulating that an attack on a ally is an attack on all.
Ratification could take up to a year, although membership has already been approved by a few countries, including Canada, Germany and Italy.