NATO Summit - Senator McConnell Calls For Strengthening Alliance

Bob McConnell
May 22, 2024

On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell provided remarks for a meeting at the Atlantic Council relating to the upcoming NATO Summit here in Washington.

McConnell makes the case that there is much more to do within NATO so that it can meet the on-going and future challenges. And he makes the case that we must recognize Russia for what it is and act accordingly.

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) has also addressed the upcoming NATO Summit with consistent but additional recommendations, and I set those out below, after the Leaders’ release and a political cartoon I have inserted.

McConnell Remarks To Atlantic Council

On Upcoming Washington NATO Summit

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recorded the following remarks for release today at the Atlantic Council:

“The focus of this gathering – an age of marching authoritarians – is one of urgent importance. Recognizing the threat revisionist powers pose to Western peace and prosperity should already be the price of admission to any serious conversation about U.S. foreign policy.

“But the challenge we face today is graver than the sum of its parts. If we acknowledge Russia’s aggressive neo-Soviet imperialism… Iran’s unprecedented promotion of proxy violence… And China’s breakneck race to expand its sphere of influence and challenge the prevailing rules of the international system…

“Then we also have to grapple with the ways these adversaries reinforce one another. How the world’s autocrats are training, equipping, backfilling, and covering for one another’s aggressive gambles. And how the simultaneous threats they pose to the free world compound the challenges before us.

“Of course, acknowledging the threat is one thing. What matters most is what we’re prepared to actually do about it. War in Ukraine may have woken up most NATO members to the harsh reality of Vladimir Putin’s ambitions, and the urgent need to strengthen the alliance’s eastern front.

“But to stop there would be to miss the point.

“The lesson of Russia’s war of conquest isn’t limited to the acute deficiencies of European arsenals or the urgent requirements of helping Ukraine win today’s fight. The lesson allies need to take away is the cost of chronic neglect for hard power and high stakes of the simultaneous, global challenges we’re already facing.

“As you all know, last month the Senate passed an overdue emergency supplemental investment in both the defense of vulnerable allies and partners and our own arsenal and defense industrial base.

“Congress should have approved this investment sooner. But the Administration’s hesitation has hampered the West’s response, limited Ukraine’s capability, and tempered political support here in America from the beginning of Putin’s escalation.

“It’s time to move at the speed of relevance, not the speed of bureaucracy. It’s time for the Administration to put supplemental assistance in action, and stop micromanaging Ukraine’s use of American weapons. We need to equip Ukraine with the tools to win – not just enough to avoid losing.

“But our work doesn’t stop there. That’s why I’ve been urging the President and colleagues in Congress for years to start making greater sustained investments in the sort of hard power capabilities and industrial capacity we’ll need for long-term strategic competition we’re facing from emboldened authoritarians.

“And I’ve been taking this same message to our friends in Europe and beyond. I’m grateful to front-line NATO allies who have dug deep to equip Ukraine’s defense. And I’m encouraged by the commitments larger European powers have made to surge defense spending and restock their own arsenals.

“But anyone who still sees the requirements of collective defense as a matter of special funds or emergency supplementals is, again, missing the point. The task before us is to reflect the magnitude of global challenges in our military requirements, force planning constructs, and base budgets – year after year after year.

“That’s why this summer’s Washington summit will be so important:

“We’ll convene with new allies who have already modeled investment in capable militaries and in defense industrial capacity. NATO is already stronger with Sweden and Finland in our ranks.

“But this summer, we’ll also need to reach a greater shared understanding that spending 2% of GDP on defense – and 20% of that on modern equipment and weapons – cannot be an end goal. These targets have to be a baseline from which we keep building together.

“NATO is the most successful military alliance in human history. But we’re staring down a constellation of challenges to Western security unlike any we’ve seen before. Anyone who doubts Russia’s revisionist aims, Iran’s unchecked confidence, or China’s serious ambition does so at their own peril.

“Just as Asian partners recognize the ways Russia’s war in Ukraine impacts their own interests, Western allies must recognize the importance of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific to our own interests.

“The order underpinning the peace and prosperity we’ve enjoyed for decades will not uphold itself. The rules of the road will not enforce themselves. The test we’re facing is a test of the West’s resolve – it’s as simple as that.

“So more than ever, it’s time to stand firm, to stand together, and to start matching the scale of our commitments to the size of the challenges we face.

“And that work – as is so often the case – begins right here in Washington.”


From FOUN’s 2024 Priority Recommendations for U.S. Assistance to Ukraine regarding NATO - -

“At last year’s Vilnius summit, the United States stood against the overwhelming majority of its fellow NATO members in refusing to issue an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance, or even to provide Ukraine a roadmap to NATO membership short of a full invitation. It was a total reversal from the American position at the Bucharest summit of 2008, at which the United States pushed hard to secure for Ukraine a clear commitment by Allied leaders to eventual NATO membership.  That commitment (“we agree that Ukraine will become a NATO member”) had been reaffirmed at every NATO summit since 2008, although Allies remained reluctant to take practical steps to begin the accession process.

“The U.S. position in Vilnius ignored the clear lesson that should have been learned after Putin’s attack on Georgia in 2008, his initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and his full-scale invasion in 2022: that only Ukraine’s full membership in NATO and the protection of the NATO treaty’s Article 5 guarantee can reestablish a sustainable basis for peace, prosperity, and security in Europe as a whole.  Bilateral commitments to train and equip Ukrainian armed forces can help deter Moscow but will not be sufficient in and of themselves.

“NATO’s 75th anniversary in July of this year offers an opportunity to the United States and other NATO leaders to rectify this mistake by issuing an invitation to Ukraine to begin negotiations on accession to the Alliance at the earliest possible date.

“Ukraine clearly meets the requirements of NATO membership as defined by Article 10 of the Washington Treaty.  It is a European state whose commitment to democracy has been underscored by three decades of free and fair elections. It is a nation whose soldiers are fighting and shedding blood to defend not only their nation’s democratic sovereignty but also the security of the North Atlantic community. Today, Ukraine’s ground forces match, if not exceed, the capabilities of our European Allies.  They are, without question, the most battle-tested forces of Europe today.  While Ukraine already meets the requirements for NATO membership, it must continue to undertake legal, political, and economic reforms to conform with the EU acquis as quickly as possible in order to bring greater prosperity and resilience to the country and prepare for EU membership.

“An overwhelming majority of NATO members recognize the need to defeat Putin in Ukraine and set Ukraine on a clear, unambiguous path to NATO membership. This will send a clear signal to Vladimir Putin that the Alliance is committed to European peace and security for the long haul and that Ukraine’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity is an essential part of that.”

Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network
The introduction is our Mr. McConnell’s and is not necessarily the view of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN).