WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following remarks during a hearing on the value of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The hearing was the third in a series examining U.S. policy toward Russia. The committee heard testimony from Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations; Nicholas Burns, former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO; and Stanley Sloan, a professor at Middlebury College.
“As our members know, this is the third in a series of hearings on Russia, with today’s hearing assessing the value of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“In a strong, bipartisan manner, this committee has expressed support for our NATO allies and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the transatlantic partnership.
“I know most members of this body believe, like I do, that a strong NATO is essential – especially given a level of aggression from Russia not seen since the Cold War.
“Unfortunately, and the reason we are here today, is that in recent months, the value of this critical alliance has been repeatedly questioned.
“The recent NATO summit was, in my view, a low point in that regard.
“While I strongly support the notion that all NATO countries, especially Germany, need to meet the 2 percent requirement for spending on defense, at the same time, a weakening of the alliance is not in U.S. national interests.
“And by questioning the very premise of NATO, harshly rebuking individual member states, purposely using false information in an effort to turn public opinion against the alliance, and casting doubt on our commitment to Article 5 – in effect inviting our rivals to test it – NATO is undoubtedly weakened.
“And, of course, this, in turn, plays right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.
“Today, I hope we can set the record straight and provide the American people with a true understanding of this important alliance.
“We will go into these issues in greater detail as we hear from our witnesses, but I would like to frame our conversation, starting with a few facts.
“Since 1949, NATO has been a vital building block of American security. It has linked the U.S. with Europe and Canada through mutual defense, shared interests, and basic values.
“Our partners stood ready during the height of the Cold War and stood with the United States following the September 11 attacks on our nation – the only time in the 69 year-existence of the alliance that Article 5 has been invoked.
“Let me repeat: Article 5 has been invoked once in 69 years, and it was in response to an attack on the U.S. homeland.
“Now in regards to funding, here is the reality.
“We spend less than one percent of our overall defense budget on NATO itself. And even if we were to add up all of the costs associated with European security, our forward presence, missile defense, and security assistance, it totals just 5 percent of our defense spending.
“But it is true that not all of our NATO allies are meeting their commitments, which is why I support the administration urging our NATO partners to commit more resources to defense.
“So, the bottom line is, yes, some of our allies need to step up. But at the end of the day, NATO is a very good investment for U.S. national security.
“I think Secretary Mattis understands that. I think Secretary Pompeo understands that. And I think many others within the administration understand the same.
“I think it’s important that we give the American people a clear-eyed assessment of NATO, its value, and its relationship with our country.
“I am hopeful that today’s hearing will provide just that.
“I want to thank the witnesses again for being here today. I look forward to your testimony.”
Click here for complete testimony and video footage from the hearing.