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Republicans Join Democrats in Defending NATO

House lawmakers challenge Trump’s criticisms of the military alliance in a resolution obtained by FP.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 17:  The early morning sun begins to rise behind the U.S. Capitol on November 17, 2016 in Washington, DC. Later today, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is scheduled to meet with Congressional lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 17: The early morning sun begins to rise behind the U.S. Capitol on November 17, 2016 in Washington, DC. Later today, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is scheduled to meet with Congressional lawmakers on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A bipartisan group of 18 U.S. lawmakers are leaping to the defense of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, countering President Donald Trump’s attacks that the six-decade-old military alliance is obsolete.

The lawmakers introduced a resolution Thursday that takes aim at the president’s most frequent criticisms of the organization, such as his view that it isn’t oriented toward fighting terrorism. The resolution does not explicitly mention the president by name. 

“Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has evolved to take on new dangers including terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and cyber attacks,” the resolution states.

Despite concerns that the resolution could be viewed as a swipe against the president, nine Republicans signed on as cosponsors to the legislation, including Reps. Mike Coffman (Co.), Ann Wagner (Mo.), Tom Cole (Ok.), Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), Ted Yoho (Fla.), Doug LaMalfa (Cal.) Leonard Lance (N.J.), John Moolenaar (Mich.), and Andy Harris (Md.).

In describing her support for the resolution, Wagner cited her role as a former United States ambassador to Luxembourg and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It is incumbent on the United States and our European allies to reinvigorate our global commitment to international order,” she told FP.

The resolution also takes aim at Russia, a country whose president Trump has praised repeatedly and with which he has expressed a desire to have closer bonds.

“Russia has continued to threaten the sovereignty of countries in Europe and exhibit threatening behavior toward our own military assets,” the resolution states. “NATO sends a clear collective message that the Alliance will not tolerate Russia’s provocation.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump warned that that the United States might not come to the defense of NATO allies if they don’t shoulder a greater burden for their own security. His criticisms reflected longstanding concerns by military leaders that the vast majority of NATO countries do not meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defense. But his threat to abandon freeloading NATO members in the time of crisis rattled NATO members.

More recently, Trump has softened his criticism of NATO and even claimed that members were beginning to make progress on paying their fair share.

“Our partners must meet their financial obligations. And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that,” Trump said earlier this month during his first joint address to Congress. “In fact, I can tell you the money is pouring in. Very nice.”

In fact, there hasn’t been any new money from NATO allies as a result of Trump’s criticisms, and there haven’t been any new commitments since Defense Secretary James Mattis made his case for increased military spending to allies in February.

Democratic Rep. John Delaney (Md.) said the resolution has bipartisan support in part because new language was included in the resolution urging NATO allies to increase defense spending. “That is a change from the last resolution,” he said. “My Republican colleagues have been strong and forceful on that point.”

“I think Gen. Mattis would read this resolution and he’d agree with it,” he added.

John Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013. @john_hudson

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