Senate votes 95-1 to approve Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership – is this the right move?

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It was a great week for Republicans and Democrats coming together in solidarity – with the Senate’s overwhelming approval for the inclusion of Sweden and Finland in NATO. This comes on the heels of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, where Republicans also joined hands with their Democratic counterparts in a rare sign of near-universal agreement.

It is a pity that we cannot get the same kind of cooperation on internal affairs, but I think we have to choose two sides where we can get it. However, one senator opposed the pack and voted no; Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. (Technically two, if you count the current vote of Senator Rand Paul.)

There must always be one rocking the boat; in this case, Senator Hawley gladly accepted that role. Is he going against the grain to keep his name relevant for a possible presidential run, or does he think we should perhaps focus our efforts elsewhere?

Inclusion vs Expansion

Senator Hawley argues in his no vote that we should focus on who he believes is our greatest threat to national security: China. Instead of expanding resources in the European region, he argues that we should focus on damming China in the Pacific.

In an op-ed, Senator Hawley explains the reasoning behind his no vote, summarizing:

“NATO expansion would almost certainly mean more US troops in Europe in the long run.”

Hawley, a proponent of former President Trump’s support, believes that other countries should bear their share of the weight to ensure stability in the world. As Mr Hawley further states:

“Until our European allies make the necessary commitments to their own national defense, we must not endanger American lives in Europe as we allow China’s power to grow unchecked.”

It is fair to note that as Russia continues its campaign to envelop Ukraine and push it further west, China has been building its capabilities. What is Mr. Hawley so concerned about?

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Let’s take a short trip to the other side of the world to see what he’s talking about.

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The enemy in our backyard

Speaker Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan has angered China, and there is no doubt that China’s recent live fire drills in response are a sign of things to come. The question is, when will their aggression reach a turning point?

China has been trying to undermine our efforts for a long time, and more covertly than we have seen in the past. For example, I recently reported on how China has been gobbling up land here in the US, near strategic military installations.

In 2019, the Department of Agriculture reported that China had purchased more than 192,000 acres of U.S. farmland. Combined with their attempts to infiltrate our higher education institutions and build military capabilities, you could argue that we have been engaged in a soft war with China for many years. But unfortunately we don’t seem to be winning.

Speaking of winners and losers, a recent war game pitting the United States against China in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan had us at best caught up in a protracted war and, at worst, a nuclear engagement with the Asian superpower.

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mr. Hawley discusses this in his op-ed when he writes:

“…more than three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, the geopolitical landscape is different. Russia is still a threat, but the Chinese Communist Party is a much bigger one.”

The counter-argument, however, is that NATO expansion gives strength to both Russia and China.

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a good question

The overwhelming support of Republicans was a victory for Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Senator McConnell said of the vote:

“There is no doubt that admitting these robust democratic countries with modern economies and capable, interoperable militaries will only strengthen the most successful military alliance in human history.”

Both countries are already participating in NATO missions, and Finland is indeed meeting the weak target of 2% GDP spending on defense requirements. mr. McConnell goes on to argue:

“Even closer cooperation with these partners will help us counter Russia and China. Their accession will make NATO stronger and America safer.”

It’s hard to see any tangible way adding Sweden and Finland will counteract China. And Russia isn’t too happy with the idea, declaring in June that if the two countries join NATO, they will place nuclear weapons along their northwestern border.

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said of the vote:

“The real question today is whether adding two capable and strong nations to our mutual defense pact will make us stronger or weaker.”

That’s an excellent question, Mr. Cotton.

Writing checks that our military can’t cash

I sometimes get some flak for my stance on foreign policy. But as a military woman who has spent 20 years in uniform, I believe in a strong and deadly defense.

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I have no love for communists or oppressors, and I believe that we should always radiate strength when it comes to our adversaries, especially Russia and China. The problem is that we are in no way willing to go to war with China, let alone China and Russia.

Allow me to list the reasons why:

Let’s not forget Joint Base Langley-Eustis’s recent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summer Festival, which I’m sure our Chinese and Russian counterparts were shaking in their shoes.

I partially agree with Mr Hawley when he ends his op-ed about the changed geopolitical landscape 70 years ago with:

“…a truly strategic American foreign policy—one that focuses on this country’s strategic interests now, rather than on the world of years ago—must embrace and prepare for this reality.”

Hopefully soon we will start preparing for what is inevitably just around the corner. Otherwise, we may be stretched too thin on promises we can’t keep.

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