Last year, I co-introduced in the U.S. House with Congressman Jim Marshall, D-Georgia, defense bill language to maintain the current U.S. military force presence in Europe and to uphold U.S. commitments under the NATO treaty. The NATO First Act would ensure trans-Atlantic security remains a priority.
by Congressman Michael Turner
Last year, I co-introduced in the U.S. House with Congressman Jim Marshall, D-Georgia, defense bill language to maintain the current U.S. military force presence in Europe and to uphold U.S. commitments under the NATO treaty. The NATO First Act would ensure trans-Atlantic security remains a priority. The NATO First Act proposes a number of proactive measures in promoting the building of coalitions.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949 to provide for the collective security of the free nations of Europe, as well the U.S. and Canada, the alliance helped keep the peace during the Cold War. Some 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO’s role as a stabilizing force in the region is still necessary and should not be sacrificed as the White House searches for new ways to court the Russian Government.
America faces many new national challenges to the security of our homeland. Attempted terror attacks on U.S. soil, cyber attacks, and proliferation of nuclear and missile technology have been added to the list of challenges our nation faces. This includes traditional nuclear and conventional threats already on the list.
NATO is fundamentally a security alliance. So in the 21st century, NATO’s strategic concept must strengthen the security of member states, establish policies that continue to deter potential adversaries, and reassure member nations. In particular, Central and Eastern Europeans—who have been some of America’s staunchest allies—need and deserve NATO’s reassurance.
This guarantee is crucial for a number of reasons. First, Moscow has steadily increased its aggressive rhetoric and actions towards countries that the Kremlin considers within its “sphere of influence.” With growing insecurity in Europe following Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, some believe the United States is shifting its attention away from the region in an effort to “reset” its relations with Russia.
Russia’s behavior is also a reminder that traditional NATO security principles like strategic deterrence are still important. Russia’s 3,800 tactical nuclear weapons remain a threat to many NATO states. As the United States Secretary of Defense recently highlighted in testimony before Congress, U.S. nuclear forces in Europe provide a visible sign of reassurance and commitment to our NATO Allies.
The United States also has an opportunity strengthen and reassure NATO of our commitment to its mission. Iran’s progress in developing nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles has highlighted the need for territorial missile defense capabilities. Our ongoing operations in Afghanistan have highlighted NATO’s key role in training and mentoring Afghan security forces. The United States should consider strengthening joint training capabilities to help NATO better support counterterrorism operations.
If NATO does not address traditional security threats, expand on the ways to mitigate them, and incorporate emerging security areas, it risks further deterioration of a successful “reset” in relations between Moscow and Washington. Only a strong and adaptable NATO can guarantee continued trans-Atlantic security in the years to come.