Jul 17 2018

Co-Chairs Tillis and Shaheen welcome Senators Barrasso, Booker, Coons, Ernst, Gardner, King, Merkley, Rounds, Rubio, and Van Hollen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the co-chairs of the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group announced the appointment of new members. The Senate NATO Observer Group was re-established by the senators earlier this year with the support of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.  

Senate Majority Leader McConnell appointed Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Senate Minority Leader Schumer appointed Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). 

The Senate NATO Observer Group was first established in 1997 to serve as a connection between the Administration, NATO and the U.S. Senate. The Senate NATO Observer Group has been re-established since, in 2002, but was disbanded in 2007 due to a lack of NATO enlargement rounds.

The Senate NATO Observer Group re-established by Senators Tillis and Shaheen in 2018 has an expanded mission to closely monitor and inform Senators outside of national security committees about defense spending commitments of Alliance members, the process of upgrading military capabilities, the Alliance’s counter-terrorism capability, NATO enlargement and the ability of NATO member states to address non-conventional warfare.

“During a time when NATO members face increasing conventional and non-conventional threats from our adversaries, it is vital for all members to work towards strengthening our alliance and advancing our shared strategic objectives,” said Senator Tillis, co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group.  “I’m excited to welcome the new members of the Senate NATO Observer Group, which demonstrates strong, bipartisan support for maintaining America’s commitment to NATO.”

“NATO is where our transatlantic community’s security interests and values converge, and the Senate NATO Observer Group will help ensure the continuity of effort between the Senate, NATO headquarters and our Allies in an increasingly complex world,” said Senator Shaheen, co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group. “As our community of democracies continues to come under attack by those who wish to reshape the rules-based international order, often by force,  this link will be critical to educating lawmakers and citizens alike on the importance of having Allies in difficult times. For this reason, I am pleased to welcome our new members, whose participation and dedication underscores the Senate’s – and the United States’ – commitment to NATO.”

“NATO has been crucial to American security and prosperity for 70 years. At a time of renewed international threats, we must demonstrate clear, bipartisan support for the most successful alliance in history, said Senator Coons. “I am honored to join the NATO Observer group, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen the transatlantic alliance to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

“The NATO Observer Group is important during this critical time, as we continue to see evolving aggression against our NATO allies by America’s adversaries and to ensure NATO is able to push back against Russia’s grey zone operations,” said Senator Ernst. “I am honored to join this group and want to extend my thanks to Ambassador Hutchison and General Scaparrotti for their support.”

“The alliance between the United States and NATO remains strong, but with emerging threats across the world it is important that we are working in unison to provide the necessary tools and resources to maintain a strong defense and alliance,” said Senator Gardner. “I appreciate the opportunity to serve in the NATO Observer group, and I fully support efforts to examine ways that we can further strengthen the most successful military alliance in history.”

“After the President spent his week in Europe dividing our allies and embracing Putin, it is clear that the Senate must play a larger part in strengthening our relationships with NATO allies – and that is exactly what the Senate NATO Observer Group can do,” said Senator King. “The President has the Constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy, but Congress also has the responsibility to conduct oversight to ensure that our NATO commitments, and those of our allies, are being upheld – and given Russia’s recent history of using military force in attempts to change international borders, and more subtle tactics to undermine democratic political institutions, those international commitments to the continued strength of NATO are vital to America’s national security. The reestablishment of the Senate NATO Observer Group will help ensure that we are prepared to stand with our friends in the face of evolving threats to national security – particularly Russian efforts to sow discord in the alliance, threaten its neighbors, and interfere in democratic elections – and reaffirms America’s commitment to this critical alliance.”

“The United States and our NATO partners continue to face new and emerging threats from our adversaries,” said Senator Rounds. “By re-establishing the NATO Observer Group, the Senate will be able to obtain timely information on the important decisions being made and the threats we face. I look forward to being a part of this group as we work to further strengthen our strong bond with our NATO allies, promote peace and combat global security concerns.”

“I am proud to join the NATO Observer Group, especially at a time when Vladimir Putin is seeking to undermine the alliance by pitting member states against each other and influencing foreign elections in favor of anti-NATO candidates,” said Senator Rubio. “It is in America’s national security interest for NATO to be strong and unified. Vladimir Putin must know that his aggression in Ukraine and continued meddling in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, will not go unchecked.”

“NATO was founded in the aftermath of the unspeakable horrors of World War II with a clear mission: an attack on any one country in the Alliance was an attack on all,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Time and time again, we have banded together to fight for freedom, democracy and the rule of law  – and in our darkest hour, after the September 11 attacks, our allies stood with us without hesitation or equivocation. In our current political climate, the need to affirm our commitment to NATO is more important than ever, and I’m proud to join this effort.”