U.S. Dep. of State: Remarks to the Senate NATO Observers Group

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Remarks to the Senate NATO Observers Group



A. Wess Mitchell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Washington, DC
February 28, 2018

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Well let me thank Senators Shaheen and Tillis for welcoming us this afternoon and for your efforts to re-establish the Senate NATO Observers Group.

I am proud to be here today with General Scaparrotti to underline America’s commitment to strengthening the NATO alliance. We join the Senate in re-affirming our nation’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5, as voiced in the unanimously passed resolution last June and underscored by Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis. Today’s announcement is another important reminder of the depth of our dedication to NATO and of the constitutional responsibilities that Congress holds for U.S. Foreign Policy alongside the Executive Branch.

Seventy years have almost passed since Americans first joined with Europeans to create a new Western alliance, grounded in Atlantic cooperation. In helping to form NATO, the United States invested in an insurance policy against the return of the old cycle of European nationalism and war that had pulled America into European affairs on terms not of our own choosing, on two occasions in the first half of the 20th century, at great expenditures of American lives and fortune. But more than that, we and Europe created an Alliance of democracies committed to preserving the principles of freedom that are the essence of who we are.

The past seven decades have repeatedly shown just how necessary it was for the West to form the NATO Alliance. There is no major foreign policy challenge in the world today in which either the United States or Europe can expect to succeed without one another. Our unity is a strategic necessity and a national resource of inestimable value.

America must continue to take responsibility for Western security. That means maintaining our strong capabilities and retaining a strong forward posture in Europe. But it also means engaging our allies in active diplomacy and fighting to maintain trans-Atlantic unity. America’s leaders in both the Executive and Congressional branches must also engage our own citizens and continually educate our public why it matters to everyday Americans what happens in the Baltics or Balkans and why national security is indissolubly linked to that of Europe. That task has never been more essential than it is today.

Ten years have now passed since Russia invaded Georgia and NATO issued the Bucharest Summit Pledge to aspirant members. Four years have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine, where more than 10,000 people have now died as a result of Russian aggression. Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia has demonstrated its ability to not just threaten and invade neighbors but spread chaos, disinformation, and disruptive influence into the very heart of Western Societies. This, together with the ongoing challenges of terrorism and migration from Europe’s Southern Frontier, show that NATO’s role is more relevant today than at any time since the high point of the Cold War.

The Senate NATO Observers Group is an important tool for engaging and strengthening NATO at this crucial time. When it was created in 1997, the group focused on NATO enlargement, burden sharing, and military modernization. Today, those remain timely issues, but they have been joined by new concerns over disinformation, terrorism, and cyber security. Legislatures here and in Europe have a key role to play in increasing Western nations’ readiness for responding to this task.

When I met with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly this past December, I called on members of that group to underscore to their citizens back home how important it is that every NATO state take responsibility for security. I know these are tough decisions politically and financially. They require thoughtful, careful consideration and difficult choices. But we must face these choices head-on if we are to extend the benefits that NATO has brought these past several decades to new generations.

Today, there is an unprecedented consensus in America and throughout the Western world about the challenges we face and what we must do to confront them. Our task is to use that consensus wisely and not waste it. The relaunching of the Senate NATO Observers Group demonstrates America’s determination to retain, defend, and renew the Atlantic Alliance as the bedrock of not only transatlantic security, but of our own national security and the stability of the wider world.

I know I speak for Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Hutchison in saying how committed the State Department and U.S. government are to working with our congressional colleagues to sustain the Atlantic Alliance. It continues to be our best hope for a peaceful and prosperous present – and future.