Senator supports Finnish and Swedish accession because they will be accretive to the overall capabilities of the Alliance
Urges increases in U.S. energy production to lower global energy prices & deny Russia revenue from energy exports
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, this week participated in a hearing on strengthening NATO and the proposed accession of Finland and Sweden and urged the Biden Administration to focus on improving allied military capability amid growing nuclear and conventional military threats from Russia and China.
“Up front, I’d like to say I support Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO, because their addition will be accretive to the overall capabilities of the Alliance, and I appreciate that,” Hagerty told witnesses Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (ISA) Celeste Wallander and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) Karen Donfried. “I’d like to take you back to my service as U.S. Ambassador to Japan. There I spent a tremendous amount of my time and effort in increasing the capabilities of the U.S.-Japan Alliance on a military front, trying to ensure that the agility, the interoperability, and the overall military capability was being maximized for our combined forces. I worked very often with then-Prime Minister Abe on this topic. I support our current Ambassador [Rahm] Emanuel as he works with current Prime Minister Kishida in the same arena—it’s very important.”
“As the United States advances its NATO policy in the 21st century, I believe it’s going to be important to get back to the basics,” Hagerty stressed. “And there, I mean, in the very first instance, NATO is a military Alliance that needs to focus on deterring military threats with real military capabilities. And if the last year has demonstrated anything, it’s that the NATO Alliance must stand stronger to better deter Russia’s military threat to us and to our Allies.”
In response to Hagerty’s question on when Finland and Sweden respectively would meet the goals of spending two percent of GDP on defense, Assistant Secretary Wallander confirmed that Finland is already meeting the two-percent goal, and Sweden has committed to meeting the two-percent pledge no later than 2028.
Hagerty also sought clarity from Assistant Secretary Wallander about future capabilities Finland and Sweden would bring to NATO. “Certainly one of the, one of the hopes would be that both countries would contribute, and I believe will contribute, to the battle groups on the Eastern flank, the eight Eastern front countries of NATO. Finland and Sweden both have very strong bilateral relations with the Baltic countries in particular. And they, Sweden and Finland, can become not just strong defense partners of, or allies of the Alliance, but strong contributors as those countries face Russian aggression right on their borders,” Wallander responded.
Hagerty also challenged these officials to defund Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
“The Biden Administration’s energy policies have perversely helped to fund Putin’s war machine in Ukraine,” Hagerty told Assistant Secretary Donfried.
“Russia has actually had a massive increase in its revenues from oil sales—just in the first five months of this year, its oil sales are up close to 100 billion dollars” despite massive international sanctions, Hagerty added. “That’s more than enough—in fact, almost one-and-a-half times Russia’s annual military budget.
“So, in effect, we are inadvertently funding Vladimir Putin’s war machine,” Hagerty warned. “And I want to encourage you to please take the message back home that when President Biden decided to wage the war on fossil fuels here in America, it has a global impact—and that global impact not only hurts American consumers here at home, but it also is hurting the brave Ukrainians that are trying to fight right now because they’re also a casualty of President Biden’s anti-energy policies.”