The world is more unstable than at any time since 1945 – at the forefront is the Islamic State, which threatens global security; Iran continues to test ballistic missiles that menace the European continent and threaten energy resources on which the global economy depends; and Russia is actively working to undermine elections and the transatlantic alliance that has fostered peace for more than seven decades, not to mention invading Ukraine, supporting Syria’s murderous dictator, and backing the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Such a climate impacts not just American security and prosperity, but that of our allies and partners whose support is instrumental for achieving our own foreign policy goals. It is necessary for Congress to exert its role in shaping foreign and defense policies that best serve the interests of the American people. To better accomplish this, dialogue with our allies overseas in which points of difference are frankly stated and matters of mutual interest are jointly pursued is crucial.
That’s why I traveled overseas last week and prioritized meeting with German, French and British foreign and defense ministers. Their countries serve as essential partners in Afghanistan, sending their men and women to serve there alongside ours, and sharing vital information on terrorists – thousands of whom have left Europe to join the Islamic State and are returning or have stayed home to be inspired by ISIS. Additionally, European sanctions on Russia for its illegal activity in Ukraine work in tandem with American sanctions to impose costs on Russia’s destabilizing actions.
Russia’s malign intentions toward the United States and our European allies are not to be underestimated. The hackings of American political entities and the dispersion of fake news through social media in our last election are now being employed as a slate of European countries, including France and Germany, hold pivotal elections this year. In smaller European states closer to Russia, Moscow is intimidating them with the same threats of covert invasion that we have witnessed carried out in Ukraine. We cannot fail to act in support of our allies when their territorial and electoral integrity are being subverted.
Beyond Europe, Russia is working directly against American interests. They are arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, who in turn cooperate with Al Qaeda. Far from fighting ISIS in Syria as Moscow asserts, they have bombed hospitals, schools and food markets. Likewise, as the international community works to broker peace in Libya, Russia is meddling to sow greater chaos, which jihadist groups such as ISIS thrive on further endangering European allies who sit across the Mediterranean from Libya.
The unifying organization against Russia and so many other threats is NATO. This alliance has served America’s interests since its founding, and the mission of mutual defense clearly remains as relevant as ever. As the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I also met with American General Curtis Scaparrotti – Commander, U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe – and discussed the state of U.S. military in Europe. To him and our foreign counterparts, I underscored Congress’ commitment to retaining a robust alliance that defends against terrorists and hostile governments. This is an alliance that protects mutual security but also interests such as democracy and fundamental human rights. While our allies can and must do more to carry shared burdens, now is not the time to leave them wondering about America’s commitment to Europe. As leading trade partners of the United States, threats to European security will most certainly affect us here at home.
These trade relations are important to American prosperity, and Europe’s trade barriers are a point of disagreement that I raised. For 20 years, Europe has unfairly banned imports of American beef, and I discussed an end to such practices. It was valuable to deliver the message in person that Congress is watching European practices closely, and emphasized that Kansas farmers and ranchers should be on the same level playing field as those from other countries.
In times of uncertainty among nations that share our democratic values and face similar threats, America should not contribute to it. Instead, a clear message of unity and resolve to protect our security and enhance standards of living for all is badly needed, and it was a message I was privileged to deliver to our closest of allies.