Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Finland leaders want NATO membership

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Finland said on Thursday that it will apply to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “without delay.” We’ll break down the announcement.  

Plus, we’ll talk about the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol issuing subpoenas to five GOP lawmakers — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). 

Welcome to 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 you this newsletter? Subscribe here.  

Finland wants to join NATO 

Finland on Thursday expressed a commitment to apply for membership to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  

The U.S. and the alliance welcomed the move, but Russia warned that the move would threaten its security.  

The backdrop: Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began, speculation has mounted over whether Finland and Sweden would depart from their stances of neutrality and join the 30-country bloc.  

A day after the invasion began, Russia threatened “military and political consequences” against the countries if they joined the alliance. 

“Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at the time.  

What Finland said: In a joint statement, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin called for their country to join NATO.  

The leaders said that being part of the alliance would “strengthen Finland’s security.”  

“As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance,” they said. “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”  

Russia’s response:  A Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday that Finland joining NATO would threaten Russian security and do nothing for the security alliance.  

“As we have said many times before, NATO expansion does not make the world more stable and secure,” Dmitry Peskov said, according to CNN. 

When asked directly if Finland’s potential membership was a threat to Russia, Peskov responded “definitely,” Reuters reported.  

The U.S., NATO react: In a statement, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said that Finland would be “warmly welcomed into NATO, and the accession process would be smooth and swift.”  

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. would support Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.  

“Having a strong NATO alliance, a strong western alliance—which is a defensive alliance, by the way—is good for our security around the world,” Psaki said. “And certainly, having a strong partnership with a range of countries, including Sweden and Finland if they decide to join should be reassuring to the American people about our own security interests.”   

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas five GOP lawmakers 

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), on Thursday as the panel prepares for a slate of public hearings next month. 

McCarthy along with Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) received subpoenas. 

It marks the first time the select committee has sent subpoenas to its own House colleagues. 

Why the subpoena? In short, the panel said the group of lawmakers issued subpoenas include members who took part in meetings at the White House, had conversations with then-President Trump in the lead-up to the Capitol attack and were involved. 

A big deal: The move is a significant escalation in the committee’s inquiry. Investigative panels have rarely used their subpoena powers on fellow legislators, but there is some precedent from entities like the House Ethics Committee.  

So far the panel has focused its subpoenas on members of the Trump administration and various figures linked to the attack on the Capitol. 

The Republicans respond: Perry reacted to the subpoena in a statement, claiming that the panel, which he called an “illegitimate body” had leaked the subpoenas before contacting lawmakers. He said such a move was “proof positive” that the probe is a “political witch hunt.” 

Biggs told Fox News during an interview on Thursday that the subpoenas were “unusual” and that the panel is “illegitimate.” He said he had not seen the subpoena, claiming that the deposition requests were leaked to the press. 

Asked if he will comply with the subpoena, the Arizona Republican said “I think this is an illegitimate committee that, and they don’t really have the authority to issue subpoenas in my opinion.” 

“We don’t want to dignify what they are doing,” he added. 

Read the full story here 

Senators press Pentagon on abortion protections 

A group of eight senators is urging Pentagon officials to ensure that service members can get access to an abortion even if the medical procedure becomes illegal in states where they are based.  

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), are pressing the Department of Defense (DOD) to act quickly on the matter following the leaked draft ruling from the Supreme Court made public last week. The draft document indicates the court is set to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. 

Who signed the letter? The other senators to sign onto the letter were Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who lost both legs while serving in Iraq; Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who served in the Navy Reserves; Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii); Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.); and Angus King (I-Maine). 

The demands: The lawmakers are imploring Austin to implement protective policies in the military before any ruling goes into effect.  

“At a minimum, you and your staff should consider implementing policy changes to allow servicemembers to obtain [special permission] in order to travel out of state for reproductive healthcare and abortions if they are stationed in a jurisdiction that curtails these rights,” they write.   

“The men and women who join the military sacrifice an incredible amount in order to serve their country. We owe it to these servicemembers to look after them and ensure they have the ability to continue accessing safe reproductive healthcare no matter where in the nation their military service sends them.” 

The Pentagon’s side: The Pentagon has largely been mum on how it would support service members seeking an abortion should the decision be overturned.  

In response to questions about a potential abortion ban, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby last week said he’d “rather not get into an abortion-centric discussion” but that “the health and well-being of our men and women are paramount concerns of department leadership.”   

He added, “We certainly want to make sure that whoever they are and wherever they are that they know that we’re serious about that pledge and that we are serious about making sure they have the information, the tools that they need to make the most informed decisions for their own personal health and well-being.” 

Read more here 

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense will hold a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 United States Air Force and Space Force Budget at 9:30 a.m. 
  •  The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces will hold a hearing on Fiscal Year 2023 Marine Corps Modernization Programs at 10:00 a.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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Tags Andy Biggs Kevin McCarthy Scott Perry

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