Lawmakers in Germany voted overwhelmingly Friday to approve Finland’s and Sweden’s membership in NATO, with Poland’s lower house moving the ratification forward as well.
NATO allies meeting in Madrid last week signed the accession protocols for the two countries to join the alliance. The move must now be ratified by the governments of all member states.
Following the vote in Berlin on Friday, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told lawmakers their vote strengthens freedom and democracy — and sends a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "He bet on our weakness," she said of the Russian leader. "Now he gets the opposite.”
For decades, Sweden and Finland, while always working with NATO, had historically remained neutral. But Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February prompted the nations to pursue membership. Public approval for joining the alliance swelled since the invasion.
Germany joins Canada as the first two nations to fully ratify the NATO expansion.
Meanwhile, the lower house of Poland’s parliament, the Sejm, on Thursday approved Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, a vote that also was received with a standing ovation.
The ratification bills now go to the upper-house Senate, where they are also expected to easily pass before final approval is given by President Andrzej Duda, who supports accession.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.