Today the Senate passed a measure 95-1 to add Finland and Sweden to the NATO alliance. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), the lone vote in opposition to the legislation, delivered remarks on the Senate floor today explaining his vote against it:
“Our foreign policy should be about protecting the United States, our freedom, our people, and our way of life, and expanding NATO, I believe, would not do that,” said Senator Hawley. “What I am arguing for is the return to a classic nationalist approach to foreign policy […] grounded in our nation’s interests and in the reality of the world as it is, not as we wish it was.”
Hawley Op-Ed: Why I Won’t Vote to Add Sweden and Finland to NATO
The Senate will soon vote on adding Sweden and Finland to NATO. According to the terms of NATO’s founding treaty, that means the United States would be obliged to defend both countries in the event of a military attack. I intend to vote no.
Finland and Sweden want to join the Atlantic Alliance to head off further Russian aggression in Europe. That is entirely understandable given their location and security needs. But America’s greatest foreign adversary doesn’t loom over Europe. It looms in Asia. I am talking of course about the People’s Republic of China. And when it comes to Chinese imperialism, the American people should know the truth: the United States is not ready to resist it. Expanding American security commitments in Europe now would only make that problem worse—and America, less safe.
Confronting this threat will force us to make tough choices. As the 2018 and 2022 U.S. National Defense Strategies both acknowledge, the United States cannot defeat China and Russia in two major wars at the same time. And we are not where we need to be in Asia. The U.S. is currently not prepared to fend off Chinese military aggression in the Pacific. Our forces are not postured as they should be. And we do not have the arms and equipment there we need, not least because we have been distracted for too long by nation-building activities in the Middle East and legacy commitments in Europe. In the face of this stark reality, we must choose. We must do less in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to prioritize China and Asia.
To be clear, America shouldn’t abandon NATO. But it’s time for our European allies to do more. In particular, they must take primary responsibility for the conventional defense of Europe by investing more in their own militaries. All the way back in 2006, NATO member states pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on national defense. It should be higher. The United States spends far more than that on defense. But many NATO members still haven’t met even this minimal commitment.
And this isn’t just about U.S. interests. For our allies, it’s also a matter of self-preservation. If NATO member states aren’t prepared to defend themselves, they risk serious danger if U.S. forces are pulled from Europe into a crisis in the Asia-Pacific. Every European nation must now make the necessary investments to prepare themselves for a new threat environment, or risk the worst.
For decades, NATO stood as a bulwark against a militant Soviet Union, protecting the Western world by blocking Communism’s westward expansion. But more than three decades after the Soviet Union’s fall, the geopolitical landscape is very different. Russia is still a threat, but the Chinese Communist Party is a far greater one. And a truly strategic American foreign policy—one that looks to this nation’s strategic interests now, rather than the world of years ago—must embrace this reality, and prepare for it.
By U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)
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