ICYMI: Sullivan Speaks on Importance of Allies Following NATO Summit

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to discuss his thoughts following the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

 Sullivan NATO Summit

Senator Sullivan speaking on the importance of allies and alliances following this week’s NATO Summit (click image or here to watch). 

NATO SUMMIT (U.S. Senate – July 12, 2018):

Mr. President, this afternoon, I want to say a few words about the President's visit to NATO and the NATO meeting we just had and talk about the importance of alliances and our allies. If you read the press accounts, I think you will see that this trip and the meeting of the President with all of the NATO leaders in Brussels was, overall, a good trip.

There has been this commitment by NATO members since at least 2014--but it really goes way earlier than 2014--for each country to spend 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense spending so that we share the burden of defense.

The United States has essentially always met this target--easily met this target--but a lot of other countries haven't. They have heard time and again from Presidents about this, and yet they have kind of ignored it.

The success of this trip is that it looks like for the first time in years, NATO countries are moving away from cuts in defense spending. Even in the United States, from 2010 to 2016, we were cutting our defense spending. Although it was way above 2 percent, we cut it by almost 25 percent. We saw a huge drop in readiness. We are changing that. Almost all of the NATO countries are starting to add billions of dollars to defense spending. I think the President deserves a lot of the credit for really pressing this issue. Other U.S. Presidents have pressed it, and the Europeans have kind of ignored it, and it seemed to go away. President Trump stayed focused on it, and we are starting to see a shift, and I think he deserves credit.

The President also highlighted a big national security issue that is in Europe that doesn't get a lot of attention, but that should get a lot of attention, and that is the issue of energy, particularly natural gas and how Russia feeds a lot of Europe--particularly, in this case, Germany. That undermines energy security and national security in Europe and in NATO. It is a controversial topic. A lot of countries in Europe don't like the fact that Germany is spending so much to import Russian gas when NATO is actually focused on defending Europe against Russia. I think the President also did a good job highlighting this issue and how we need to focus on this.

We are seeing some Europeans protesting the visit of our President, but I will state this--and you don't read about this a lot: There has been no Western leader who has done more to undermine Western interests and Western national security and European energy security than the former Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder. He was the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, and when he left office, what did he do? He immediately went to work for Gazprom and Vladimir Putin to sell natural gas to European countries, including his own government and his own country, Germany.

To me, that represents a remarkable betrayal of Western values, NATO security, and European energy security. It doesn't get highlighted, but, for our German friends--and they are our good, close allies--it is one thing to protest our President, but take a look at your former Chancellor. He is doing more damage to the national security of Europe and the energy security of Germany and our allies than probably anybody else in Europe.

The bottom line is this 2 percent GDP goal and this concern that we have with Russian energy going into European capitals. These have been bipartisan concerns of Democratic and Republican administrations of the United States for decades, and I think at this NATO summit we are starting to see some good progress.

The President ended the NATO meeting by saying: The United States' commitment to NATO is very strong, remains very strong, and the spirit of countries willing to spend additional amounts of money is amazing to see. To see that level of spirit in the room of all the leaders is incredible.

That is what the President said today, and I think that was a good message with which to end this NATO leaders' summit in Brussels.

I want to emphasize another point about our alliances and about NATO. It is also important to know that NATO is not just the sum of the amount of money that countries spend. That is important. There is no doubt about it. But this alliance, which many have viewed as the most successful military alliance in history, is a lot more than just money. At its heart, it is about common values. At its heart, it is about countries coming together to defend democracy. At its heart, it is about countries that have the same core national security interests.

This is very important. At its heart, it is about shared sacrifice. There is shared sacrifice in the checkbook, yes, but it goes way beyond this. It is very important to remember article 5 of the NATO treaty, which is the treaty by which countries invoke the common defense. When you invoke article 5, that means that all of the other allies are coming to help you. All of the other allies are coming to defend you. Article 5 has been invoked in the NATO treaty, which was passed by this body in 1949, one time. It was invoked one time--one time. When was it invoked? After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Our NATO allies said: We are going to help defend America--that is really important--and they did. They did.

Again, we talk too much about dollars, and I commend the President for what he has done, but let's talk about other shared sacrifice. The alliances we have around the world aren't just about money. Since 9/11, over 1,000 non-U.S. NATO troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan, coming to our defense after 9/11 and going after the terrorists who killed over 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Over 1,000 NATO soldiers--non-American NATO soldiers--have paid the ultimate sacrifice because of the alliance they have with the United States.

You can't put a pricetag on that. You can't put a pricetag on that. Some sacrifices are more than just dollars. Some sacrifices can't be measured in dollars, and I think it is important for all of us here in the Senate, for the Trump administration, and for all Americans to remember that.

I wish to thank the families of those over 1,000 NATO alliance soldiers who have been killed in action and the thousands and thousands more who have been wounded in Afghanistan, hunting down terrorists who killed our citizens. It is very important to remember that.

The bottom line is this when it comes to one of the most important and enduring strategic advantages we have anywhere in the world: We are an ally-rich nation, and our adversaries-- such as Russia, North Korea, and Iran--and our potential adversaries--- such as China--are ally-poor. We are ally-rich. Countries trust us. Countries want to join alliances with the United States, and our adversaries and potential adversaries are ally-poor.

That system of alliances has been built for over 70 years through the hard work of Democratic and Republicans Presidents, Secretaries of State and Defense, and U.S. Senators. It has been a joint collective effort.

Here is something else that is important to know. Our adversaries and potential adversaries know that this is the most important strategic advantage we have over any other country, and that is why for years--for decades--countries such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea have tried to split up our alliances. We shouldn't let that happen. It is important to remember this as we continue to deal with these countries. I think this NATO summit sent a strong message that we are going to stand together for decades more to come.

When it comes to alliances, this body, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, plays a very important role. The alliances I have talked about--including, especially this week, NATO--came to the Senate for ratification. Again, it is important as we talk about national security, we talk about 2 percent, and we talk about burden sharing. Yes, we need that from our allies, but we also need to remember that our alliances go well beyond the checkbook--common values and shared sacrifice. Sometimes that is the most important issue to remember as we continue to deepen our alliances and expand them throughout the world, which is the best way to keep peace and prosperity, not just for us but for the entire world.