Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised that approval of Sweden’s application to join NATO will be fast-tracked by Congress and could be done within months.
McConnell made the comments to reporters in Stockholm on Monday after Sweden officially announced it will apply to NATO to provide better security for the country in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sweden shares a maritime border with Russia.
“We anticipate moving this rapid—in a more rapid fashion than past applications for NATO,” McConnell told reporters in Stockholm, where the Kentucky Republican was visiting with a delegation of GOP senators in a show of support amid the ongoing Russia–Ukraine conflict.
“We hope to approve it before August,” he said. “We are confident it will be approved.”
McConnell also shared a statement on Monday following his visit to both Sweden and Finland where he reiterated his support for both nations joining NATO, stating that both would “bring tremendous value as new NATO members and would strengthen the alliance significantly.”
“Sweden and Finland already have long track records as two of the United States and NATO’s most capable friends and partners, even from outside the alliance,” the Senate Republican leader said.
“Both countries have massive geographic importance, professional and well-equipped armed forces, strong military industrial bases, and significant interoperability with U.S. and NATO forces. Both nations’ robust commitments to defense funding mean that their accession would directly address longstanding concerns about burden-sharing and the financial contributions of our allies,” McConnell said.
He added that he would do “everything in my power to ensure that our part of their accession process moves smoothly and expeditiously.”
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters in Stockholm on Monday that the decision to join NATO was driven in part by Finland’s recent move to join the alliance.
Finnish leaders, with backing from lawmakers in the country, announced plans to officially seek NATO membership over the weekend.
“Should Sweden be the only country in the Baltic Sea region that was not a member of NATO, we would be in a very vulnerable position. We can’t rule out that Russia would then increase pressure on Sweden,” Andersson said.
The vote to approve new membership into NATO must be unanimous among all members.
However, Turkey has threatened to block the bid by Sweden and Finland, citing their alleged willingness to support terrorist organizations, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and followers of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of being behind the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey.
“Neither of these countries has a clear, open attitude toward terrorist organizations,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a joint news conference with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Monday. “How can we trust them?”
Erdogan also described Sweden as an “incubation center for terrorist organizations,” and claimed that some members of Sweden’s Parliament supported the PKK.
He also pointed to the fact that both Sweden and Finland imposed arms export embargoes on Turkey in 2019 after its incursion into Syria.
“First of all, we cannot say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey, on joining NATO which is a security organization,” Erdogan also noted.
The Turkish president added that NATO would become “a place where representatives of terrorist organizations are concentrated” if both Sweden and Finland were to join.
Numerous other NATO members have signaled support for the two nations to join.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.