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One California congressman voted against Finland and Sweden joining NATO. Here’s why

California Congressman Tom McClintock in 2018. The Republican has cautioned against expanding NATO. (JOHN WALKER/McClatchy Washington Bureau/TNS)

Just 18 lawmakers opposed a U.S. House resolution that proclaimed support for Sweden and Finland joining military alliance NATO.

All were Republicans, one a Californian.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, said in a statement Tuesday that “Every country admitted to NATO expands the risk of the United States being entangled in a European war, requiring the blood and treasure of the entire nation to support.”

Members of the 30-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization must come to the defense of one another if under attack.

“In return, what does America get? The strength of the mighty Finnish and Swedish armies? If American interests are threatened, we always have the option of becoming involved. This measure would change the option into an obligation,” he said.

Monday’s House vote merely voiced support for the two Nordic nations becoming part of NATO and encouraged swift action.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May amid the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine. The alliance — which spans Europe, the U.S. and Canada — invited the two nations to join at the end of June, kick-starting the process to become a member. It typically takes about a year.

McClintock voted “no” along with a group of far-right conservatives, many of whom remain ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump. As president, Trump complained that the U.S. shouldered an unfair burden of defense costs.

On Tuesday, McClintock said adding nations to NATO that were neutral in the wake of World War II and the Cold War “would add still more trip-wires that could embroil America in a European war at a time when America’s greatest international threats are outside of Europe.”

Nineteen House members skipped Monday’s vote — two Democrats and 17 Republicans — none of whom were from California.

McClintock on adding to NATO

McClintock has long advocated against NATO nations who do not “pay their fair share for its support.”

In 2019, the Elk Grove congressman voted “no” on the NATO Support Act which blocked U.S. withdrawal while Trump pondered pulling support.

The U.S. is part of a minority of NATO countries that spends at least 2% of its gross domestic product on defense, a fiscal goal that member countries agreed to meet by 2024.

McClintock said he supported NATO and the U.S. being a part of it but that the 2019 act perpetually allowed other countries to unfairly ride on U.S. coattails.

“NATO was formed to provide security against the now-defunct Soviet Union; not to relieve individual European nations from their responsibility to maintain their own defenses at America’s expense,” he said at the time.

The 2022 House resolution also says that Russian action against Sweden and Finland joining NATO would not be tolerated and encourages NATO nations to meet the goal of spending 2% of their GDP on defense, which countries pledged to at the 2014 NATO summit.

McClintock on Russia

Russia swiftly criticized NATO’s invitation in June. President Vladimir Putin warned that if troops and military weapons were deployed in Sweden and Finland, Russia “would be obliged to respond symmetrically.”

McClintock, historically tough on Russia, was late to condemn the invasion of Ukraine in February. The week prior, the congressman had said that a simple way to deter Putin would be to say that Ukraine would not become part of NATO.

A few days after the invasion, McClintock said that Russia’s actions were “barbaric” and “an affront to all humanity.”

In a 522-word statement, he criticized how the U.S. handled oil production, troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is not a call to war with Russia,” he said in the February statement. “It is a wake-up call that America is growing dangerously vulnerable in an increasingly violent and unstable world.”

In voting “yes” to $40-billion in military aid for Ukraine in May 2022, McClintock said he hoped it would stabilize the region “before the conflict spreads to a point that directly threatens American security or triggers American treaty obligations.”

McClintock voting record

McClintock, seeking re-election in California’s new 5th Congressional District, was awarded by the American Conservative Union for siding with their views 100% of the time on key issues last year, the only California Republican to do so.

Reps. Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who also voted against the resolution regarding NATO, similarly sided with the ACU 100% of the time on key issues — against impeaching Trump over the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, D.C. statehood and stricter background checks for firearm sales, to name a few.

The 18 naysayers on supporting Finland and Sweden’s entry to NATO were:

  1. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
  2. Dan Bishop, R-N.C.
  3. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
  4. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.
  5. Ben Cline, R-Va.
  6. Michael Cloud, R-Texas
  7. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio
  8. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
  9. Bob Good, R-Va.
  10. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R- Ga.
  11. Morgan Griffith, R-Va.
  12. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
  13. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
  14. Mary Miller, R. Ill.
  15. Ralph Norman, R-S.C.
  16. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
  17. Chip Roy, R-Texas
  18. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J.


© 2022 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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