As the Obama Administration pursues a policy to “reset” America’s relationship with Russia, Rep. Michael Turner and Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) yesterday introduced the bipartisan NATO First Act (H.R. 2797) to fortify America’s transatlantic security links with our European allies and partners
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As the Obama Administration pursues a policy to “reset” America’s relationship with Russia, Rep. Michael Turner and Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) yesterday introduced the bipartisan NATO First Act (H.R. 2797) to fortify America’s transatlantic security links with our European allies and partners.  By building a robust, integrated U.S. and allied security framework in Europe, the NATO First Act will bolster common defenses, protect the United States homeland, and strengthen an alliance that has ensured peace and stability in Europe for over 60 years.

The legislation, which Rep. Turner and Rep. Marshall will attempt to incorporate into the National Defense Authorization Act during committee consideration next week, would also strengthen the United States’ negotiating position during ongoing engagement with Russia on key issues, such as the START Treaty.

“The NATO First Act would assure our European allies and partners that America remains fully committed to preserving the role of NATO for our mutual security.  This legislation will continue American’s strong commitment to European defense while taking steps to strengthen our NATO allies and partner nations,” said Rep. Turner.  “As we begin new START negotiations, the NATO First Act would bolster America’s negotiating position with Russia and ensure that our defense and security interests are preserved.”

“Our effective support of NATO is vital to European and global security. The specific NATO support priorities advocated by this legislation should assist and guide the Obama Administration in its strategic arms negotiations with Russia,” said Rep. Marshall.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Alliance, the Heads of State and Government of NATO signed the Declaration on Alliance Security in Strasbourg and Kehl.  The NATO First Act would implement the principles outlined in this declaration and demonstrate the United State’s commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty and transatlantic security by mandating policies that would support the indivisibility of Allied security.  Specifically, the NATO First Act achieves the following goals:

Maintains Current U.S. Military Force Presence in Europe.  The NATO First Act makes it the policy of the Congress that the current U.S. military force structure in Europe upholds the U.S.’s commitments under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, addresses the current strategic environment in Europe, and contributes to peace and stability in Europe.  Specifically, the legislation would maintain the current basing arrangements of U.S. military units that are currently in Europe.
  • Maintaining our current force presence in Europe contributes directly to NATO dissuasion and deterrence efforts; increases flexibility in dealing with crises; and improves the capability of allied forces over time because of their ability to build capacity within the host country. 

Increases Building Partnership Capacity (BPC) Funding for NATO allies and Partners.  The NATO First Act authorizes $200 million for programs to build the capacity of the national military forces of certain NATO and NATO partner countries.  Under the legislation, the Secretary of Defense could provide equipment, supplies and training to the program participants.
  • An increase in our partners’ capacity strengthens our ability to maintain security in Europe and abroad. Over 85% of the countries that contribute forces in Afghanistan come from the European Command area of operations.  Specifically, these programs would contribute to building the vital relationships that bolster U.S. strategic interests; enhance partner security capabilities; provide essential access; and improve information exchanges and intelligence sharing.  

Supports the NATO Special Operations Coordination Center (NSCC).  The NATO First Act authorizes $45 million to promote and support coordination, cooperation, command and control, information sharing, and interoperability between NATO members’ special operations forces.   
  • It is directly in the United States’ national security interests that other allies possess highly trained special operations forces whose capabilities have been developed with, and are known to, US special operations forces. 

Ensures Extended Deterrence Commitment in Europe.  The NATO First Act would prohibit any action taken to reduce United States nuclear forces that are based in Europe unless required by law and the President makes a series of certifications.  The legislation would also provide $50 million for upgrading the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear forces in Europe.
  • As the United States moves forward with a Russia reset policy, it is vital that we maintain our commitment to extended deterrence. The nuclear alliance of NATO is an important component for ensuring the security of our European allies. Thus, United States forward-deployed nuclear forces shall remain based in Europe in support of the nuclear policy and posture of NATO.

Provides $500 Million for Long-Range Missile Defense in Europe.  The NATO First Act would protect the U.S. homeland and America’s allies from long-range missile threats by providing $500 million for the proposed missile defense system in Europe in Poland and Czech Republic.
  • This legislation supports keeping U.S. and NATO collective security closely linked by providing all members of the Alliance with defense against the full range of missile threats. The European locations allow the defense of both Europe and the U.S. against longer-range threats launched from the Middle East.  

Establishes a Short-Range Air and Missile Defense Battery in Poland.  The NATO First Act would require the Secretary of Defense establish a garrison for the deployment of a short-range air and missile defense battery to Poland. 
  • The bipartisan legislation reaffirms our commitment to expand air and missile defense cooperation between the United States and Poland.  In this regard, we reaffirm our support to establish a U.S. Army Patriot air and missile defense garrison in Poland by 2012.

Limits the Russian Federation’s Ability to Reduce Certain Capabilities Pursuant to Treaty or Other Agreement.  The NATO First Act would prohibit the use of Department of Defense funds to reduce U.S. strategic nuclear forces as part of START unless Russian tactical nuclear weapons are reduced and a modernization program is established for the remaining U.S. nuclear weapons and infrastructure.  Additionally, the treaty or agreement with Russia must not reduce or limit U.S. ballistic missile defenses, space, or advanced conventional weapons capabilities.  
  • The bill would ensure Russian tactical nuclear weapons (which far exceed U.S. ones) are included in any nuclear arms control agreement with Russia, and remaining U.S. nuclear forces and related infrastructure are modernized to assure long-term reliability and sustainability. It also prevents Russia from reducing or “boxing in” U.S. conventional weapons and defensive capabilities such as missile defense.  The U.S. conventional deterrent becomes more important if its nuclear deterrent is reduced. 

Expands the United States-Russian Federation Joint Center to Allow the Exchange of Data on Missile Defense.  The legislation would provide $5 million toward expanding the US-Russian Joint Data Exchange Center to include information sharing on missile defense-related activities. 
  • The NATO First Act supports the objective of a strong, cooperative partnership between the United States, NATO and Russia by funding a joint US-Russian data exchange center on missile defense. This will ease Russian concerns about missile defense in Europe and demonstrate that the missile defense program is not directed at the Russian Federation.