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Missouri's U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley was the only senator to vote against admitting Finland and Sweden into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Wednesday.
The bipartisan, 95-1 vote in the Senate comes as national security concerns mount in Europe amid Russia's continued assault on Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans alike argued that the nations' addition to NATO would make the alliance stronger and reduce the burden of the U.S. alone.
Hawley, set to become the Show-Me State's senior senator with the retirement of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, wrote in an op-ed in The National Interest on Monday that he would vote no and that the move would hurt U.S. national security interests in the long run. The nation's most significant foreign adversary, he frequently argues, is China.
"Expanding American security commitments in Europe now would only make that problem worse — and America, less safe," Hawley wrote.
He emphasized that sentiment on the Senate floor Wednesday, arguing that "the question that should properly be before us ... is, is it the United States' interests to do so? Because that's what American foreign policy is supposed to be about, I thought."
In an appearance on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program Wednesday evening, he pointed to the U.S. southern border as an issue that should also take precedence over European concerns.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the other non-"yes" vote, voting "present." All 30 current nations in NATO must ratify Finland and Sweden's accession for them to become official members. Twenty-three nations have done so.
Hawley has at times stood as an outlier within his party on national security issues during the Biden administration. He has blocked a number of Department of Defense nominees from being confirmed, drawing criticism from the White House; he was one of 11 Republicans who voted against a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine.
His opposition to NATO expansion marks an extension of former President Donald Trump's frequent criticism of the alliance, and earned him criticism from within his party. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told Politico he believed Hawley's argument was "mistaken"; U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called his "no" vote "strange indeed."
"I would love to hear the defense of such a curious vote," Cotton said.
In the lead-up to the Senate vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky provided a similar response, The Hill reported.
"If any senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote 'no', I wish them good luck," McConnell said.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Josh Hawley is sole 'no' vote for Finland, Sweden NATO membership