Washington, D.C. - In the face of a blatant Russian challenge to Europe’s security order, U.S. leaders are urging European allies to bolster their military capabilities and readiness. During meetings with a delegation of national parliamentarians from Europe last week, members of Congress and senior Administration officials hammered home the point that answering Russia’s challenge in Ukraine ultimately demands a U Turn on European defence spending trends. //
In calling for greater defense outlays, the head of the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH), told the visiting delegation that NATO must also reemphasize its “Open Door” policy. He indicated that viable candidates like Georgia should not be denied admission to the club simply because Russia occupies part of that country’s territory. Likewise, disputes about Macedonia’s name ought to be set aside in order to consolidate NATO’s presence in South Eastern Europe, he said.
Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) told the delegation that Congress “is very concerned that we are returning to the days of old” and that Russia is aiming to reconstruct an empire along European borders. Shimkus indicated that there Congress seems increasingly inclined to sanction U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas exports to help loosen Russia’s grip over critical European energy supplies. Even if these exports ultimately move to Asia, Shimkus told the delegation, the net effect will be to drive down prices globally and reduce Russian leverage.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs, told the delegation that the Ukraine crisis has compelled the United State to pivot back to Europe. He suggested that while Democrats and Republicans on the Hill have forged a consensus on Russian sanctions policy, they are frustrated that such unity has proven more elusive within the Alliance.
In discussions at the State Department, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Jim Townsend called on allies to forge a common front in the face of the Russian challenge but noted that allied credibility will hinge upon higher levels of defense spending and the development of 21st century capabilities. Assistant Secretary of State Paul Jones added that NATO Allies need to impose costs on Russia for its so-called annexation of Crimea in the form of sanctions, bolster Allied military presence in vulnerable NATO member countries, while nonetheless offering a diplomatic off-ramp to Russia. Jones suggested that these measures may take time, but “increased pressure could shift events over the longer term.”
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation visited Washington, DC and Vancouver, Canada from 28 April to 2 May to discuss a broad range of issues, including transatlantic relations, energy security and Canadian perspectives on the pivot to Asia. The delegation, led by Chairpersons John Dyrby Paulsen (Denmark) and Menno Knip (Netherlands), consisted of 38 Members serving on the Sub-Committees on Transatlantic Relations (PCTR) and on Transatlantic Economic Relations (ESCTER).