McConnell Delivers Remarks At The Reagan Institute NATO Summit Event

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today at the Reagan Institute regarding NATO’s 75th Anniversary:

“The world remembers Ronald Reagan as the Great Communicator, and rightly so. With plainspoken persuasion, he took an animating principle – peace through strength – to halls of power from London to Berlin and Tokyo to Geneva.

“Just as often, and just as memorably, he showed his own resolve, steeled the spine of our allies, and gave hope to the oppressed in places where the yoke of tyranny weighed the heaviest – like in front of the Berlin Wall, and in Moscow… And in places where the forces of tyrants had taken the steepest toll – atop the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, and at the concentration camp of Bergen Belsen.

“But President Reagan knew well that being a master of rhetoric, public diplomacy, and soft power wasn’t worth much without the hard power that gave his words their weight. He knew that telling Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the walls that imprisoned the captive nations of the Soviet Union only packed a punch because the arsenal of democracy – which he had spent years rebuilding – was backing it up.

“This marriage of words and actions is a dying art. But we can’t afford to lose it.

“The West must ensure that our promises and our threats are backed by hard power. And nowhere are the West’s interests and the credibility of its commitments more plainly and immediately at stake than on the front lines of Ukraine. I am honored that President Zelenskyy is with us this evening. For more than two years, the people of Ukraine have backed words of defiance with acts of tremendous courage.

“It’s not difficult to imagine what President Reagan would’ve thought about a democratic nation – whose sovereignty his actions helped secure – facing the sharp edge of Russian aggression yet again. It’s no mystery where he would’ve stood while a proud nation gave its sons and daughters to beat back neo-Soviet imperialism, asking only that America and the West have its back.

“Our 40th President understood the hopes of nations struggling to join the American-led order of democracy and self-determination. More importantly, he understood that supporting their democratic aspirations wasn’t a matter of charity. As he put it in his State of the Union in 1985: ‘…we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives…to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth…Support for freedom fighters is self-defense.’ Equipping friends to resist authoritarian aggression was in America’s interests 40 years ago. And it still is today.

“But what exactly does a Reagan foreign policy mean in the current moment? What does the call to ‘peace through strength’ require of us in the face of revanchist powers, rogue states, and rabid proxies? I would suggest that, first, we ought to focus on the places where peace is threatened the most, and recognize their most urgent needs.

“Our friends on the front lines of authoritarian aggression and terrorist savagery don’t need hand-wringing hesitation or second-guessing. They need the tools to defend themselves, to impose costs on their aggressors, and to negotiate from positions of strength.

“Slow-walking aid to Ukraine didn’t stave off further Russian escalation. It only guaranteed that this terrible conflict will be longer and bloodier. Conditioning further assistance will weaken Ukraine’s hand and risk emboldening the very tyrant we hope to defeat.

“By the same token, micromanaging Israel’s defense strategy doesn’t lessen the costs of war for innocent civilians. It just shields the terrorists responsible from justice.

“Our friends in Israel and Ukraine are fighting existential wars of survival. Their enemies are working together to weaken the American-led order. The security of the free world will either be strengthened by our friends’ victory or weakened by their defeat. They deserve our support. This is Reagan 101.

“Of course, Russian aggression in Europe and Iran-backed terror in the Middle East aren’t isolated events. They’re only the most glaring signs of the rising tide that threatens American leadership and the prevailing order it has underpinned for three quarters of a century.

“The threats facing the West today are generational. Deterring and defeating them requires long-range vision and long-term commitment. We must be willing to outcompete and outlast our adversaries. These are challenges that President Reagan would no doubt find quite familiar.

“Today, our European allies are recommitting themselves to meeting the demands of collective defense. But returning from their holiday from history to support Ukraine is not enough. It’s not enough to focus on a single point of the axis arrayed against us. It’s not enough to limit long-overdue defense investments to one-off special funds. The success of the NATO alliance, and of the American-led order, is premised on collective defense.

“To a degree that some of our allies still haven’t grasped, European commitment is essential. And sharing the burden of global challenges means sustaining serious investments and higher levels of military readiness. 

“Credibility, capability, and capacity can’t be surged at a moment’s notice. They can’t be purchased at the corner store. They must be honed and preserved over time.

“NATO members must also recognize that the connected threats to our shared interests extend far beyond Europe’s borders.

“Our allies and partners from the Indo-Pacific have traveled to Washington this week because they see these connections clearly – because the outcome of Russia’s war in Ukraine matters to them. Likewise, European allies need to recognize how the growing threat China poses to our partners in Asia matters to us as well.

“Territorial integrity. Sovereignty. Freedom of navigation. These are not just abstract principles. They’re the same core interests that guided President Reagan’s leadership. And they’re being challenged today all over the world by Russia, China, and Iran.

“Isolationists on this side of the Atlantic must face the fact that American leadership is as indispensable today as it was 40 years ago… That our credibility is not divisible… And that European security and prosperity is tied inextricably to our own. 

“Those in America who discount the connections between the threats we face are increasingly isolated. As the Reagan Institute’s latest polling illustrates, overwhelming majorities of Americans recognize the essential roles of American leadership and of the NATO alliance in preserving our closest trading relationships in Europe.

“And as Speaker Johnson pointed out yesterday, they also recognize the importance of the supplemental investments Congress made earlier this year in supporting our friends on the front lines and rebuilding the arsenal of democracy here at home.

“Seventy-five years of the trans-Atlantic alliance has given us plenty to celebrate this week. But if collective security is to endure for the next seventy-five, we’ll need more leaders to start facing today’s threats with the eyes of a Cold Warrior like President Reagan:

“Our words must be unapologetic. Our actions must be unrelenting. And the greatest military alliance in human history must continue to carry the day.”


Related Issues: Iran, China, Ukraine, NATO, Russia, National Security