hen the Second World War came to an end, the uneasy alliance between Western powers and the Soviet Union quickly dissolved into acrimony and tension. While European nations struggled to rebuild from the devastation, they were forced to grapple with an increasingly hostile and aggressive Soviet Union. It was amid this backdrop that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was born.
The Soviet Union no longer exists, but the threat of a hostile and aggressive superpower in eastern Europe remains. Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian Navy vessels is the latest in a long line of aggressive actions undertaken by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Putin has overseen the hostile annexation of Crimea, destabilization in Syria, election meddling in Western democracies and a litany of additional aggressions. The need for a strong NATO is as important as ever.
As a former member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), I firmly believe that strong relationships with our NATO allies are vital to confronting the security and economic challenges of the 21st century. The assembly, while institutionally separate from NATO, provides a critical forum for international parliamentary dialogue on an array of security, political and economic matters. Members of parliament from NATO countries are key to ensuring that the alliance’s funding obligations are met and the case for NATO actions is conveyed to the public.
I recently joined my NATO PA counterparts from other nations in Nova Scotia, Canada to discuss critical issues facing our alliance. Discussions like these, where members of parliament from member countries participate, are vital to influencing NATO decisions.
The American delegation demonstrated and reaffirmed the strong Congressional support of NATO. While leaders from the allied nations won’t always be on the same the page on every issue, including the amount of defense spending each nation commits, that does not diminish the U.S. commitment to the alliance. We will continue to encourage other member nations to meet the agreed upon defense spending levels—which not all nations have done as President Trump and his predecessors have noted—but that does not conflict with the fact that the U.S. still views the alliance as immensely valuable to global security.
Pushing for all nations to uphold spending obligations is meaningless unless we continue to lead by example.
That is why I consistently support funding for NATO programs and included funding for the NATO Security Investment Program—which provides infrastructure for NATO’s response to challenges posed by Russia and threats from the Middle East and North Africa—in the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations bill I authored.
NATO PA’s principal objective is to foster mutual understanding of key security challenges facing the transatlantic partnership. Our bipartisan, bicameral delegation traveled to Canada with that in mind and brought a strong message of support for democratic values around the world, as well as our continued commitment to NATO and our allies. Our discussions and debates are important to developing consensus and bolstering alliance policies. Maintaining this open global dialogue helps protect and advance our foreign policy goals as we strive to expand democratic ideals and shape policies to protect our interests—and those of our allies—abroad.