GOP senators bash Josh Hawley’s opposition to adding Finland and Sweden to NATO: ‘We beat China by standing behind our allies’

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sen. Ted Cruz of Texas watches as Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri speaks at a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2022.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

  • Josh Hawley’s opposition to adding Finland and Sweden to NATO has been criticized by fellow Republicans.

  • Hawley argued in an op-ed that NATO expansion would limit the US’s ability to counter China.

  • Ted Cruz said Hawley was “wrong,” and Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed directly refuting Hawley’s points.

Senator Josh Hawley’s opposition to adding Finland and Sweden to NATO amid historic tensions with Russia over the invasion of Ukraine is leading even fellow Republicans to criticize his stance.

In a recent op-ed echoing former President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, Hawley argued that NATO expansion would make the US too thin in terms of its security obligations in Europe. The Missouri Republican said the US should instead prioritize challenging China.

“We need to do less in Europe (and elsewhere) to prioritize China and Asia,” Hawley wrote. “Russia is still a threat, but the Chinese Communist Party is a much bigger one.”

But Texas Senator Ted Cruz told Politico that Hawley was “wrong.”

“We don’t beat China by withdrawing from the rest of the world. We beat China by standing with our allies against our enemies,” Cruz said.

Similarly, Florida Senator Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed that served as a direct rebuttal of Hawley’s stance on the matter. The op-ed was titled, “A stronger NATO allows America to focus on the threat posed by communist China.”

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“A strong and united NATO is a powerful asset in the battle with Beijing,” Rubio wrote. “If Finland and Sweden join the alliance and the free peoples of Europe become stronger than ever, there will be more American resources available to focus on countering communist China. If we don’t rise to the challenge, it will be too late and the Americans will be held hostage by a totalitarian regime half a world away.”

The Senate voted 95 to 1 on Wednesday to ratify Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership. Hawley was the only “no” vote and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky voted “present.”

Indeed, there is strong support on both sides of the aisle for adding the Scandinavian countries to the alliance as the West continues to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invaders. Finland and Sweden have historically been neutral or militarily non-aligned countries, and their move to join NATO is one of the major consequences of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine.

In May, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said Finland and Sweden would be “major additions to NATO”.

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“I think the United States should be first in line to ratify the treaty so that both of these countries can join,” he said.

McConnell on Wednesday reiterated his support for NATO expansion by adding Finland and Sweden, in a veiled swipe at Hawley. “If a senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote no, I wish them the best of luck. This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.” said the Kentucky Republican.

Arkansas GOP Senator Tom Cotton also appeared to indirectly criticize Hawley on Wednesday as senators debated the resolution on Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO.

“It would indeed be strange for a senator who voted to admit Montenegro or North Macedonia to NATO to turn around and deny Finland and Sweden membership. I would love to hear the defense of such a curious voice, ” said Cotton. Hawley voted in 2019 to admit North Macedonia to NATO, which is apparently what Cotton was alluding to in his comments.

The schism between Hawley, a potential contender for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination, and his fellow Republicans on the matter may be an indication of Trump’s continued influence in the Republican party.

Trump was extremely critical of NATO during his time in the White House, often going after other members on the issue of defense spending and making misleading comments about how the alliance is funded in the process. Hawley also focused on defense spending in his opinion piece, writing: “It is time for our European allies to do more. In particular, they must take primary responsibility for Europe’s conventional defense by investing more in their own armies.”

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Rubio refuted this point in his opinion piece, stating: “Finland and Sweden are strong, stable countries with a long history of security cooperation with NATO allies. They are committed to national defense and would more than fulfill their NATO obligations. Finland already spends more than the required 2% of gross domestic product to its military, and Sweden is well on its way to doing the same. Both countries demand military service from their citizens.”

Hawley has repeatedly been an outlier among Republicans in terms of his stance on how the US should handle Russian aggression against Ukraine.

He was among a small group of Republicans who voted against a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine in May, for example, and also sparked controversy in February for suggesting that the US should withdraw its support for Ukraine to join NATO. The White House accused Hawley of “emulating the points of discussion of Russian propagandist leaders”. Russia firmly opposes Ukraine’s addition to NATO and has partly blamed the alliance for the unprovoked invasion of the former Soviet republic.

Hawley’s office did not comment when Insider contacted him.

Read the original article on Business Insider