McConnell Welcomes Chancellor Scholz and Urges More German Support for NATO

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding NATO:

“Today, President Biden will welcome Olaf Scholz, the new German chancellor, to his first visit to Washington since taking office.

“Germany is a crucial ally of the United States. Tens of thousands of U.S. servicemembers reside in Germany, contributing to the collective security of the NATO alliance. According to the State Department, bilateral trade between our countries totaled more than $260 billion in 2019.

“Many in Washington on both sides of the aisle appreciated the increasing leadership role that Chancellor Scholz’s predecessor, Angela Merkel, played in international affairs.

“Germany’s overseas contributions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa demonstrated a growing willingness to contribute to international missions that advance our collective security interests. 

“The German people have built the largest economy in Europe and the fourth-largest in the entire world. They are a major player. But there is no question Germany could do more given their influential role, including within the EU and NATO to advance our shared foreign policy and security interests.

“Back during the Cold War, the West German military was a truly capable fighting force. But Germany’s military has been allowed to atrophy in the decades since. Today, it lags behind the state of the art and suffers from shortfalls in readiness and regular maintenance.

“Germany endorsed the 2014 NATO pledge to commit 2% of its GDP to defense and 20% of its defense spending toward modernization by 2024. But it has taken few credible steps to meet this pledge. Meanwhile, threats to the Alliance have only grown since 2014. Russia’s and China’s decades-long modernization efforts make it clear that 2% will not suffice for NATO to meet these growing challenges.

“Here in Congress, we have demonstrated our commitment to NATO and to Europe’s security. We hosted Jens Stoltenberg for a joint address to Congress three years ago. We have included measures supporting America’s presence in Europe in our annual defense bills, including significant investments in our European Deterrence Initiative.

“So I hope that Chancellor Scholz will reciprocate, and take this opportunity to reassure us about Germany’s commitment to NATO and collective defense. Our friends are too powerful and too prosperous not to contribute more military wherewithal to our alliance.

“Of course, building military capabilities will take time. But the urgent issue of Russian aggression in Europe also demands courage and firmness right now.

“We know such resolve works. The United States and our allies displayed such firmness again and again in standing up to Soviet pressure, and West Berlin remained a free city because of it.

“Chancellor Scholz has plenty of tools at his disposal to join his allies in sending a strong signal to Putin that aggression against Ukraine would carry a tremendous cost.

“Let me give one example. A bipartisan chorus in Congress has opposed the Nordstream 2 pipeline for years. We have viewed it as a new geopolitical tool for Putin to undermine Ukraine and divide Europe. Germany acknowledges the international community’s concerns. Hence German delays in moving the project forward.

“It would be a powerful demonstration of German leadership for Chancellor Scholz to declare firmly and simply that Russian escalation in Europe will result in the termination of Nordstream 2.

“Not another pause; the end of the pipeline, period.

“Likewise, it would send an important message if Chancellor Scholz commits — like other NATO allies have done, and like his own predecessor’s national security advisor just recommended — that Germany will help Ukraine with legitimate military capabilities so that it can better defend itself against aggression.

“In conclusion, Madam President, Germany has been an important pillar in NATO and a strong ally of the United States for decades. I welcome the new Chancellor to American soil. The time is now for Germany to stand up and protect the peace and defend the stable Europe that modern Germany itself has helped construct, and from which it has benefitted.”