7/10/2018 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – In advance of the upcoming NATO Summit in Brussels and the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki, the U.S. Senate today voted 97-2 to pass a motion to instruct authored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to reaffirm the ironclad U.S. commitment under Article 5 to the collective defense of the NATO Alliance.

Members of both parties overwhelmingly approved Senator Reed’s motion to instruct Senate conferees of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 conference committee to ensure that the final conference report on the NDAA reaffirms the U.S. commitment to NATO as a community of shared values, including liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. 

The non-binding motion also calls for the United States to pursue an integrated approach to strengthen European defense as part of a long-term strategy that uses all elements of U.S. national power to deter, and if necessary, defeat Russian aggression.  It also calls on the Trump Administration to urgently complete a comprehensive strategy to counter Russian malign influence activities, as required by last year’s NDAA, and to submit that strategy to Congress without delay. 

Finally, the motion reiterates U.S. support for the rules-based international order and for expanding and enhancing our alliances and partnerships, which are one of our greatest security advantages.

“No one should ever doubt the United States’ resolve in meeting its commitments to the mutual defense of the NATO alliance,” said Senator Reed on the floor of the U.S. Senate.  “Unfortunately, this motion has become necessary because some of our closest allies have come to question the U.S. commitment to collective self-defense.  President Trump has at times called the Alliance “obsolete.”  Our allies are starting to wonder whether they can rely on the United States to come to their defense in a crisis.  Recently, German Foreign Minister [Heiko] Maas said, the “world order that we once knew…no longer exists.”  He added that “old pillars of reliability are crumbling” and that “alliances dating back decades are being challenged in the time it takes to write a tweet.”

“To make matters worse,” Reed continued, “the Administration’s eagerly-scheduled summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the heels of the NATO Summit in Brussels, only adds to fears that President Trump does not share the security concerns of our European allies and partners.  Instead of concentrating on rebuilding Alliance cohesion and unity after his divisive diplomacy at the G-7 meeting in Canada, President Trump appears intent on orchestrating another photo-op with an authoritarian ruler who oppresses his people and threatens the security of the United States, its allies and partners—this time in the person of President Putin.”

Senator Reed has stated that he believes President Trump’s decision to meet with Vladimir Putin at this time is ill-advised, and President Trump appears to be ill-informed about the threat Russia poses to the security of the United States and that of our allies and partners.  Reed has also expressed deep concern that President Trump is meeting one-on-one with a former KGB spymaster like Putin and that President Trump’s “attitude” will not be enough to challenge Putin over Russia’s aggression against the United States and our allies. 

“Let’s be clear: President Putin is not “fine.”  As recently reaffirmed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which I sit, President Putin directed an attack on our 2016 elections with the intent of undermining public faith in our democratic process,” stated Reed.  “To this day Russia continues, according the Administration intelligence officials, to target elections in democratic countries, including the upcoming U.S. mid-term elections.  Russia’s use of hybrid operations, including disinformation, propaganda, corruption and financial influence, hidden campaign donations, and even chemical attacks on civilians in foreign countries, fundamentally threatens our security.  And Russia’s ongoing aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring countries, including Ukraine, is unacceptable and violates international norms.”

In light of this Russian threat, it is vital that President Trump take the opportunity at this important NATO Summit to lead the Alliance toward greater solidarity and cohesion.  Unfortunately, President Trump’s statements ahead of the Summit point in the opposite direction. 

“I understand and share the concern of many, across the political spectrum, that our NATO allies are not spending enough on their own defense and many are not on track to meet the pledge to be spending 2 percent of GDP on national defense by 2024.  This issue has been raised by previous Administrations, including the Bush and Obama Administrations,” noted Reed.  “But ultimately, the United States participates in NATO because we believe the transatlantic partnership is in the U.S. national security interest and not because other countries are paying us for protection.” 

Senator Reed’s motion to instruct recognizes that, in the strategic competition with near-peers Russia and China, one of the United States’ greatest competitive advantages is our alliances and partnerships and the benefits that they bring to the fight. 

“The fact that 97 Senators supported this motion proves my concerns are not partisan.  This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue.  It is a national security issue.  In fact, the motion supports a number of provisions in the Senate version of the FY2019 NDAA proposed by my Republican colleagues on the Armed Services Committee that reaffirm the U.S. national security interest in the NATO alliance,” said Reed.  “At this critical juncture before the summits in Brussels and Helsinki, Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, has an opportunity to lead, just as Congress demonstrated leadership in overwhelming passing sanctions on Russia as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, by a vote of 98-2.  That law sent a clear message to Russia that there are costs to its malign activities, and that Russia’s behavior must change.”

Senator Reed’s motion to instruct was passed by a vote of 97-2.

***Watch: Senator Reed delivers floor statement before U.S. Senate votes 97-2 to approve his motion to instruct***