WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) this week spoke on the Senate floor in support of the NATO alliance and the critical role NATO has played – and will continue to play – in ensuring global stability and deterring Russian aggression.
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Full transcript of Sen. Moran’s remarks:
“Mr. President, last week at the NATO summit in Brussels, the leaders of all 29 member states, including the United States with President Trump, signed a declaration reaffirming the purpose of the alliance – collective defense – and the importance of Article 5, which regards any attack against one ally as an attack against all others. There may be a growing sense in America that NATO is no longer useful to our interests, a burden not worth the cost. I recently traveled to Moscow, Oslo and Helsinki with members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, many of us on the subcommittee for defense. We had meetings with U.S. Embassy officials, our ambassadors, and with foreign government officials, people within the ministries of foreign affairs, the ministries of defense, and with legislative leaders in that region.
“In my meetings in Moscow, we worked to begin a dialogue with Russian counterparts. Everything I heard in those meetings reinforces my belief that Russia remains a threat to European stability and that a unified NATO is essential to countering that threat and preserving American peace and prosperity. Two wars in Europe last century resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives who fought the forces of tyranny. To prevent a third war against this communist menace, Western European powers – still weakened by World War II – formed an alliance with America and Canada to deter the Soviet Union’s massive conventional forces from invading beyond what became the Eastern Bloc.
“Not only did NATO successfully deter the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, and in my view NATO contributed to the Soviet Union collapse in a significant way. But in that process, America’s commitment to European security allowed these allies to recover from the war economically, strengthened democratic governance and enabled them to stop fearing one another.
“We would be naïve to believe threats critical to North Atlantic security have faded along with the Soviet Union.
“Indeed, my recent interactions in Europe confirmed Russia remains a revisionist power intent on continuing Russia’s disruptive activities in Europe, the Middle East, and here at home in the United States. In every meeting I attended in Moscow, I made clear the Russians must end their election meddling here in the United States and Europe in order to open up doors to rebuilding relationships. I brought up Russia’s destabilizing support for separatists in Ukraine and its illegal seizure of Crimea after Ukraine democratically chose a president who sought closer ties to the West.
“Supporting and admitting that they share intelligence with the Taliban undermines the democratic government in Afghanistan and undermines our nation’s military as we continue to fight the Taliban alongside Afghan National Security Forces. In each circumstance of those conversations, Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Lavrov, continued to obfuscate, to outright deny any responsibility. However, those meetings left me unconvinced that Russia is prepared to change its behavior. In subsequent talks in Norway, a NATO member, and Finland, a NATO partner, the concerns relayed to me by these European leaders underscore the fear our European friends have about Russian activities. My colleagues and I reassured them of America’s commitment to our joint security during our meetings, and that the commitment from the entire United States government must not waver.
“The first Supreme Allied Commander in Europe overseeing all NATO military operations was Kansas’s own Dwight D. Eisenhower. As president in 1957, he declared before our NATO allies that we must “re-dedicate ourselves to the task of dispelling the shadows that are being cast upon the free world.” In addition to ongoing Russian subterfuge, terrorist groups remain intent on striking the West; threats to data information require strong cybersecurity measures; and the scourge of human and drug trafficking degrade social structures. On these and other issues, NATO allies have coordinated and contributed to the security of our own country, the United States of America.
“In particular, let’s recall that only once has NATO invoked Article 5, in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks on our country. The only time the NATO alliance has been asked to respond, has declared a willingness to respond to the “attack on one is an attack on us all,” was when the United States of America was attacked on 9/11. When we went to war against Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan, we were not alone. The United States has nearly 15,000 troops serving in Afghanistan and they are serving with NATO coalition forces as part of counter-terrorism efforts to support Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban and ISIS, which has seized strategic territories in recent years. We are approaching 17 years of support from our NATO allies in Afghanistan, support that has come even at the expense of the blood of those who serve. Just last week, I’m saddened to say that two U.S. Army soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice and were killed while serving in Afghanistan, and at least two more soldiers have been wounded from insurgent attacks.
“Finally, there’s an economic threat that a destabilized Europe poses to our nation’s well-being. The EU – distinct from NATO but certainly a beneficiary of the security provided – is America, the United States of America’s largest trading partner. Questioning why we should come to the defense of the smallest NATO member damages the alliance, and it hurts our alliances elsewhere. If we won’t honor a treaty in Europe, friends might wonder why we would honor a treaty in Asia. Predators can take advantage of our perceived indifference. That is, in part, what led to the Korean War. The United States contributes 22 percent of NATO’s total budget. In addition to our NATO contributions, the United States continues to increase defense spending on our military presence supporting our partners, with more than $6 billion in FY 2019 appropriated for the European Deterrence Initiative and another $792 million invested in military construction across the continent.
“President Trump is absolutely right, is absolutely right, to urge fellow allies to increase their defense spending and I echoed, I echoed that message on our trip to our Norway when we visited with those allies in Oslo. To the credit of our allies, they have increased spending by more than $40 billion in the past year. And fighting alongside us in Afghanistan, where they continue to serve beside us today, unfortunately more than 1,000 Europeans have died. NATO is strong and getting stronger. I believe the strength of NATO relies on remaining unified. Words matter. And what Americans say can bolster or shake confidence in the United States.
“I’ll conclude on this personal note. I thought of the force for good our country has provided the world as I stood in our embassy in Moscow on July 4, our Independence Day, watching the Marine Corps Honor Guard’s presentation of the colors as our national anthem was sung. It’s difficult for me to sing the national anthem without choking up wherever I am, but it was especially difficult that day as I reflected upon the course of events in my life, when kids practiced getting under their desks for missile drills, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the aftermath of 9/11, to a father who served in WWII, I honor him and those who did.
“Over the past 70 years, it is America that has safeguarded freedom for our people and for those elsewhere in the world. Along the way, our vision of a freer, more prosperous world attracted allies who shared our dream. Our foremost responsibility is to protect Americans all the time and promote our values around the world. We can do this better. We can do this with our allies. With them we will have a better future.”
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