Josh Hawley tells Tucker Carlson why he voted against Finland and Sweden joining Nato

The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to approve a treaty to add Sweden and Finland to Nato, amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. There was only one dissenting voice. Josh Hawley of Missouri was the only senator from either party to oppose the treaty, which passed 95-1.

On Wednesday, Mr Hawley, who is said to be harbouring presidential ambitions in 2024, appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News programme to explain his vote.

“Expanding Nato will not make America stronger and it will not make America safer,” Mr Hawley said. “What it will do is commit us to sending more troops and spending more money and devoting more resources to Europe, and, frankly, I think that’s the wrong choice. Just look at the challenges at home with our border.”

Mr Hawley’s rhetoric reflects the nationalist, non-interventionist approach favoured by many in a Republican Party still very much aligned with the policies of a former president in Donald Trump, who at one point reportedly considered pulling the US out of Nato entirely.

Speaking to a sympathetic audience in Mr Carlson, Mr Hawley argued that the US should be focusing its foreign policy on a percieved threat coming from China.

“Our number one threat is not in Europe, it’s in Asia,” Mr Hawley said. “It’s China. And right now, we are not where we need to be to protect ourselves from China’s rise, to protect ourselves from China’s attempt to take over our economy, to push us around militarily — we’re not in position at all. So my position is, let’s focus on the things that are really in America’s interests.”

Mr Hawley’s vote did not go unnoticed by his colleagues. His fellow Sen Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who is also rumoured to be considering a presidential bid, noted that Mr Hawley’s blanket opposition to Nato expansion appears to be a newfound passion.

“It would be strange indeed for any senator who voted to allow Montenegro or North Macedonia into NATO to turn around and deny membership to Finland and Sweden,” Mr Cotton remarked on the Senate floor during debate on the treaty. “I would love to hear the defense of such a curious vote.”

Mr Hawley did not oppose adding either Montenegro or North Macedonia joining the alliance in recent years, and Mr Cotton noted that Sweden and Finland are both considerably larger countries than Montenegro or North Macedonia and “far more strategically situated” given their proximity to Russia.

In his Fox News appearance, Mr Hawley framed his vote as a decision to focus American resources in the US rather than spreading them out abroad.

“I sure do hear a lot about other people who care a lot about other nations’ borders but don’t seem to care a whole lot about ours, and I hear a lot of people pay lip service to the fact that China wants to dominate our trade, wants to take away our jobs, wants to rip off our technology and take our workers, but they’re not willing to do anything about it,” Mr Hawley said.

It is also possible, of course, that Mr Hawley felt his vote could be a political wedge issue with the other Senate Republicans lining up presidential bids, including Mr Cotton, Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Tim Scott of South Carolina, all voting in favour of expanding the alliance.