Defense & National Security — Biden signs off on Finland, Sweden NATO bid

·5 min read

President Biden on Tuesday signed paperwork to admit Finland and Sweden into NATO, making the U.S. the 23rd out of 30 members to approve the countries’ admission into the alliance.

We’ll recap today’s signing ceremony. Plus, we’ll talk about the U.S. sending almost $90 million to help demining efforts in Ukraine.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Biden signs papers for Finland, Sweden NATO entry

President Biden on Tuesday signed documents to admit Finland and Sweden into NATO, hailing it as a “watershed moment” for the transatlantic alliance.

Biden, in the East Room of the White House, signed off on the accession protocols for the two European nations, a move precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Where the countries stack up: With Biden’s signature, the United States became the 23rd NATO ally out of 30 to approve Finland and Sweden’s admission to the group. Joining NATO is viewed as a deterrent against potential Russian aggression toward Finland and Sweden.

Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia. Sweden does not, but it does share a strategic interest with Russia in the Baltic Sea, which gives Russia’s naval fleet access to the Atlantic.

Recapping last week: The Senate last week voted 95-1 to approve the resolution, with every member of the Democratic caucus and most Republicans voting in support.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who argued in a recent op-ed that the United States should focus on containing China instead of expanding NATO, was the only Republican to vote “no.”  Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted “present” on the resolution.

A ‘watershed’ moment: “It was and is a watershed moment, I believe, in the alliance. And for the greater security stability not only of Europe and the United States, but of the world,” Biden said at an event attended by the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden.

“At a moment when Putin’s Russia has shattered peace and security in Europe, when autocrats are challenging the very foundations of a rule-based order, the strength of a transatlantic alliance and America’s commitment to NATO is more important than it’s ever been,” the president added.

Read the full story here.

US to provide $89 million for demining Ukraine

The State Department announced Tuesday it will provide $89 million to help demining efforts in Ukraine, comparing the scale of unexploded ordnances Russia left behind to tactics ISIS employed in Syria.

The funding will help set up 100 teams that can defuse and dispose of unexploded ordnances that cover an area of 160,000 square kilometers (nearly 62,000 square miles), roughly the size of Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut combined.

Follows $5.5 billion in aid: The demining assistance follows an announcement Monday that the U.S. is providing $1 billion in military equipment to Ukraine, the 18th drawdown of aid and the largest package to be delivered so far, as well as $4.5 billion in economic assistance.

The $89 million funding will also support a “large-scale train and equip project” to demine and dispose of explosive ordinances in civilian areas like farmland and that block reconstruction efforts or prevent people from returning to their homes.

‘Grotesque use’ of explosives: “Russia’s unlawful and unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine has littered massive swaths of the country with landmines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The grotesque use of improvised explosive devices in the manner that we are seeing in Ukraine by Russian actors was previously only associated with ISIS in Syria.”

An intelligence assessment: The U.S. announcement follows an intelligence assessment by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense on Monday that Russia is likely deploying “anti-personnel mines” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Called the “butterfly mine,” they allegedly maimed high numbers of children in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war between 1979 and 1989.

The U.K. Defense Intelligence update said that the Russians are likely deploying them to restrict freedom of movement along its defensive lines in Donbas and that the mines are “deeply controversial” and that maim indiscriminately.

Read the full story here.

North Korea funding nukes with stolen crypto

North Korea is increasingly using its crypto heists to fund its nuclear weapons program, worried U.S. officials say.

“I’m very concerned about North Korea’s cyber capabilities,” Anne Neuberger, the Biden administration’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, said recently during an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). “They use cyber to gain, we estimate, up to a third of [stolen crypto] funds to fund their missile program.”

“That’s a major issue, whether it’s attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges or use of information technology workers in various countries,” Neuberger said.

She added that North Korea’s expansion of its missile testing is a top priority for the U.S., which is taking multiple steps to counter Pyongyang’s cyber threats, including imposing sanctions against criminal groups and seizing stolen digital assets.

Read more here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Wilson Center will host a discussion on “Energy Security Outlook and Japan-U.S. Cooperation” at 9 a.m.

  • The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research will host “NPT Side Event: Narratives on the Middle East WMD-Free Zone: Historical accounts, drivers, and themes” at 1:15 p.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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