Source: United States Senator for Arizona Jeff Flake
WASHINGTON –U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) today spoke on the Senate floor to express U.S. support for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In light of President Trump’s recent behavior and assertions at this week’s NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, Flake reiterated our country’s commitment to the defense of our allies and cautioned against praising hostile dictators:
“Global peace is not a zero-sum game and global alliances ought not be subject to whim, impulse, opaque machinations, or mercurial threats of cancelation over internal disagreements. Mr. President, if this is some kind of stratagem, what good could possibly be achieved by heedlessly making friends into enemies? NATO is one of the greatest and most visionary investments our nation has ever made. And anybody who says different is simply wrong. Any counter-narrative about NATO is willfully destructive, and does real and lasting damage to us in the world.”
Video of Flake’s remarks can be viewed here.
Flake’s full remarks can be viewed below.
I rise today to discuss a matter of great import given the events of the past few days in Europe as it relates to friends, foes and peace.
Global peace is not a zero-sum game and global alliances ought not be subject to whim, impulse, opaque machinations, or mercurial threats of cancelation over internal disagreements. The world relies on the United States for stable and reliable leadership, and we have in turn benefitted greatly from the peace and stability for which we have been the chief guarantors. This is not a subject that is even debatable.
Lately, the President of the United States has been characterizing our most vital relationships around the world in purely transactional terms, asserting that America has been taken advantage of, and he has gone so far as to suggest that when it comes to our relationship with our NATO partners, we get nothing for our troubles.
Nothing for a stable and peaceful Europe? This is the danger in viewing these relationships as mere transactions, absent our shared values. Absent values, the world is nothing but a cruel and cold place of warring camps and territorial ambitions and no durable alliances whatsoever. To view the world this way requires a frightening unawareness of the postwar security order that we ourselves created.
And this posture of antagonism and suspicion toward our partners in peace can only be held when you blot out seventy of the most consequential years in the history of the world. Apart from our shared sacrifice and our shared security, what we have been through together over those seventy years cannot adequately be reflected in any ledger or list of petty grievances, and a seeming ignorance of the scale of that history is blundering and strange.
The mindset that comprehends a trade deficit as a grievous offense or an unfair act of aggression is the same mindset that can upend vital security relationships that are similarly misperceived.
Sometimes, if I didn’t know better, I might say that we are purposely trying to destabilize the Western alliance, and turn the world upside down. I might come to this conclusion because by a process of elimination, no other answer would make any sense.
Mr. President, if this is some kind of stratagem, what good could possibly be achieved by heedlessly making friends into enemies, and who, exactly, would benefit? What would this president replace the Western alliance with? There simply is no better order that could be achieved by this destabilization.
Today I rise to pose a few questions, and I believe that there is much riding on the answers to these questions.
A couple of days ago, the President of the United States said that his upcoming meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin would likely be easier than his meeting with America’s most important allies at the NATO summit. Why would a president – any president – say such a thing? The Russian president – at the very least – personally directed a propaganda campaign and an extraordinarily ambitious series of cyberattacks aimed at the integrity of our elections in 2016, and we have been told that these attacked are continuing. He has shown no sign whatsoever of changing his behavior.
The Russian president is a man schooled in treachery and espionage. He jails and murders his opponents, presides over a mafia state, and he is an enemy of democracy. Why would a meeting with Putin be easier than a meeting with the allies that we rely on most to be a bulwark against him?
Vladimir Putin is not “fine,” as the president recently asserted. And singing his praises for no good reason sends a terrifying message to our allies – especially those countries that share a border with Russia. Flattering such a man – who has demonstrated his hostility toward us and contempt for our values, and has recently annexed parts of neighboring sovereign countries – is simply bizarre. That the admiration comes from an American president, well, that is unconscionable.
The president of course continues to entertain Mr. Putin’s denial of election interference (and otherwise hardly mentions the Russian attacks on us – other than to talk about the “Russia hoax” or to refer to Mr. Mueller’s investigation into the attacks as the “witch hunt”). This, in spite of conclusive and overwhelming proof of Russian involvement generated from investigations conducted by his own government. Why?
Then, before the recent G-7 meeting, the president called for Russia to be re-admitted to the G-7, in spite of the fact that Moscow continues to occupy Crimea and has shown no remorse whatsoever for its behavior toward the United States. Why?
Then, yesterday in Brussels, the president offered a twisted interpretation of how NATO works and how it is financed in order to frame a grievance against our NATO allies, supposedly on behalf of the American taxpayer. Why?
Why would an American president create such conflict?
And why, Mr. President, does the president’s complaint about our closest friends on the global stage unnervingly echo the Russian position? Mr. Putin’s singular foreign policy goal is to weaken democracies and destroy the Western alliance. Could we possibly be helping him any more in his quest than by baselessly attacking our own allies?
This antipathy and hostility toward our friends and allies is simply inexplicable. But it is not good enough to just say that – for it is our job and obligation here in this body to try to end it – to reassure our allies that they are still our allies.
Over the Independence Day holiday, I had the privilege to lead a bipartisan and bicameral delegation to the Nordic and Baltic states to talk to our friends whose view of the Russia threat is much more intimate than ours, and to hear the concerns of the leaders there – NATO allies and partners. We wanted to assess the threat for ourselves.
In Latvia, where 40% of the population is ethnic Russian, the propaganda from Moscow is strong and unrelenting: The NATO alliance is weak, it won’t last, the United States is an unreliable ally. These themes have lately become very familiar on this side of the Atlantic as well.
The people of Latvia, ethnic Russians and otherwise, pay close attention when an American president is reported to have said things like Crimea is rightfully part of Russia because the people in Crimea speak Russian. Well, there is a lot of Russian spoken in Latvia, too. Does that mean that the United States would concede to Russian aggression against Latvia on that basis?
Vladimir Putin presides dictatorially over the remains of a collapsed empire. All he has now are nationalism and territorial ambitions and nostalgic appeals to former glory. He is not a “strong leader” for his people – as our president has said – any more than Kim Jong-Un’s people love their dictator (as he has also said). If we fail to see these things clearly, then we fail the world, and we fail ourselves, and we dishonor those from our own country and from our allied countries who kept the Soviet menace at bay for half a century, as the world hung in the balance.
We are now told that the president will be meeting one-on-one with Mr. Putin, with no staff present, no press, no one to make a record of the event. Why? If the White House is as confused about the nature of the threat we face from Mr. Putin as it seems to be, a meeting between our president and his Russian counterpart for which there is no record could not be more concerning. It is vital that even the most private meetings between leaders not be lost to history. Especially when once again the world seems to be hanging in the balance.
Mr. President, NATO is one of the greatest and most visionary investments our nation has ever made. And anybody who says different is simply wrong. Any counter-narrative about NATO is willfully destructive, and does real and lasting damage to us in the world.
I join my senior Senator, John McCain, in the sentiments he expressed just weeks ago. To our allies – bipartisan majorities of both parties support our alliances based on seventy years of shared values. Americans stand with you.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not here today remind my colleagues that the only time Article 5 of the NATO charter has been invoked has been by the United States, after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Our allies accompanied us into battle to defend our country and our way of life, and they paid an eternal price for their commitment to our shared security. Of the more than 3,500 casualties sustained thus far in Afghanistan, roughly a third are the sons, daughters, husbands and wives of our NATO allies.
In the spirit of NATO, Mr. President, those casualties are our casualties. We cherish them and their sacrifice as if they were our own. Because they are our own. Let us honor them not just in memory, but in deed – in the way we conduct ourselves here, in this place. In our commitment to the values for which they died. In the clarity of our purpose, and ultimately in our basic ability to tell right from wrong. No matter the cost.
I yield the floor.