French parliament backs accession of Sweden, Finland to NATO
The French parliament has voted to ratify the accession of Sweden and Finland to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), following the two Nordic countries' bid to join the Western military alliance amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
France's National Assembly voted by 209 in favor and 46 against the move on Wednesday, joining "twenty allies" who "have already ratified the protocols," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that the US Senate will hold votes on approving both Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO. According to Schumer, the debate will begin at 1:30pm ET (1730 GMT) on Wednesday.
In early July, NATO's 30 allies signed an accession protocol for Finland and Sweden, allowing them to join the nuclear-armed alliance. The accession needs to be ratified by the parliaments of all the 30 NATO member states before Finland and Sweden can enjoy the full protection of Article 5 of the NATO charter in the event of an attack.
The signing was the most significant expansion of the alliance since the 1990s and it followed a deal with Turkey at a NATO summit in Madrid, where Ankara lifted its veto on the Nordic membership bids. Turkey had cast a veto against Helsinki and Stockholm's NATO accession drive, accusing them of backing anti-Ankara Kurdish militants.
Citing security concerns, Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO after Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine on February 24. Finland officially announced its intention to become a member of NATO on May 15, despite stern warnings from Russia. Sweden also followed suit shortly after the country's ruling party dropped its long-standing opposition to NATO membership.
Moscow has long expressed grievances to the US about NATO's eastward expansion, and says Washington has repeatedly ignored the Kremlin's concerns about the security of its borders in the West. Putin has already warned that Moscow will respond if the US-led alliance bolsters military infrastructure in the two Nordic states.