U.S., NATO Allies Must Commit to Strengthening Collective Defense
‘Our allies should invest in critical capabilities and modern systems that add to NATO’s combat power. And they should revive defense industrial bases that have languished since the Cold War… For America’s part, it’s past time for the Senate to consider the National Defense Authorization Act. We have an obligation to ensure the US military remains the world’s preeminent fighting force, capable of deterring and defeating enemy aggression.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding NATO:
“Right now, President Biden and other NATO leaders are convening in Vilnius, Lithuania. The way I see it, there are four key objectives for this summit:
“Securing more Western support for Ukraine. Improving NATO’s own military capabilities. Strengthening collective resolve against the primary threats posed by China, Russia, and terrorists. And welcoming Sweden to the Alliance.
“I’m encouraged by the progress NATO is making toward each of these objectives. But there is more work to be done.
“As trans-Atlantic leaders confer about how to help Ukraine defeat Russian aggression, it is significant they are doing so in the Baltic country of Lithuania, itself once a ‘captive nation’ subjected to decades-long Soviet occupation.
“The Baltics’ proud history of resistance drives their active contributions to NATO and extensive contributions from their own arsenals to Ukraine’s fight.
“Decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, brutal Russian occupation has found a new target. And the fate of Ukraine’s resistance continues to depend on Western support.
“Western allies should use this week’s summit to commit even more critical capabilities to tip the balance of forces in Ukraine’s favor. Time is of the essence for allies to increase production of critical munitions and to send longer range, more sophisticated, and more lethal systems to the front lines.
“In this regard, I welcome President Biden’s decision to provide Ukraine cluster munitions to improve its defense against Russian invaders.
“However overdue, these munitions will both improve Ukraine’s capability to strike Russian forces and compensate for shortfalls in standard artillery rounds. Despite vocal opposition from his own party, the President ultimately made the right call.
“The fact of the matter is Russia has been using cluster munitions for months in Ukraine. American cluster munitions have a substantially lower failure rate than Russian munitions. And while the risk of unexploded ordnance is not zero, it is fantasy to believe that wars can be fought without risk.
“Here’s the bottom line: it should be up to Ukraine whether to employ these effective weapons on its own soil.
“Plenty of liberals have criticized President Biden for this decision. The New York Times editorial board suggested that helping Ukraine match capabilities its aggressors are already using amounts to, ‘a clear escalation of a conflict’. The senior Senator from Vermont suggested yesterday that the President should be concerned about what, ‘the rest of the world feels’ about these weapons.
“Never mind that providing these capabilities to Ukraine will save lives by facilitating a counteroffensive designed to stop Russia’s conscious efforts to kill civilians.
“If liberals are truly concerned about civilian casualties in Ukraine, they should support giving our friends the capabilities they need to end Russia’s brutal war.
“Mr. President, the stakes are simply too high for leaders in Washington to let their own naivete and virtue signaling get in the way of reality.
“Ukraine’s war will not be won with yard signs or hollow promises to hold Putin accountable. It will be won with weapons.
“The same rules apply to future conflicts we hope to deter. Unity is important, but hard power will be decisive.
“On this front, NATO is making progress toward rebuilding the hard power many allies allowed to atrophy. Every member of the Alliance now spends at least 20% of its defense budget on actual capabilities. Our allies are making progress toward spending 2% of GDP on defense. And more than half of the Alliance should hit that goal by the end of next year.
“But we should agree that 2% is a floor, not a ceiling, for our commitments to collective defense.
“Our allies should invest in critical capabilities and modern systems that add to NATO’s combat power. And they should revive defense industrial bases that have languished since the Cold War.
“Certainly, another clear way to strengthen NATO is to welcome Sweden to the alliance. Like Finland, Sweden is a high-tech economy with a strong industrial base. Its leaders are committed to contributing to the Alliance and are investing even more significantly in an already capable military.
“I’m encouraged that President Erdogan and Prime Minister Orban have agreed to support Sweden’s accession. And I look forward to rapid action by the Turkish and Hungarian parliaments.
“For America’s part, it’s past time for the Senate to consider the National Defense Authorization Act. We have an obligation to ensure the US military remains the world’s preeminent fighting force, capable of deterring and defeating enemy aggression.
“The Senate will have an opportunity to lead our allies by example as soon as the Democratic Leader brings the NDAA to the floor.”