In-Depth: Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced this bill to prevent the U.S. from withdrawing from the NATO alliance:
“The NATO alliance is a pillar of international peace, stability, and security, and serves as a deterrent against aggression and destabilization. We must promote our shared values of freedom, equality, and empowerment by continuing to invest in the institutions, programs, and people that enhance our national security.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) added:
“America’s alliances are a source of strength and security for our country. As a student of hsitory I can say that our defense alliances have preserved peace and enhanced economic prosperity since the end of the Second World War, and as a career military officer ad former base commander in Europe, I can confidently say that they remain critical to U.S. military operations today. Among our defense treaties, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization stands alone as the most successful military alliance in history. On the 70th anniversary of this historic treaty, it is right for Congress to express its support for the NATO Alliance, and to make clear to our allies and adversaries alike that the American people are absolutely committed to staying in NATO.”
On January 14, 2019, the New York Times published a report citing several anonymous Trump administration sources that President Donald Trump was privately considering leaving NATO. Days later, President Trump pushed back on those claims and said at the Pentagon:
“We will be with NATO 100 percent, but as I told the countries, you have to step up.”
This legislation has the support of 10 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
Of Note: The U.S. became a founding member of the NATO alliance with 10 other European and North American nations when President Harry Truman signed and the Senate ratified the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949.
The portion of the Treaty which provides for the collective defense ― known as Article V ― holds that an armed attack on a member in Europe or North America should be considered an attack on all. Each member would be required to take whatever action it deems necessary, individually and in concert with other allies, to restore and preserve the security of the North Atlantic area. For this reason, Article V is sometimes known as the “Three Musketeers” clause of the Treaty because it’s “all for one and one for all.”
In the first few years of its existence, NATO didn’t have well defined military structure and primarily served as a political alliance. But communist North Korea’s shock invasion of South Korea ― and the support it received from the communist regimes in China and the Soviet Union ― led to the development of NATO’s military command structure. It also led to more countries joining the NATO alliance, including West Germany, Greece, and Turkey during the 1950s as the Soviet Union created its rival Warsaw Pact alliance in 1955.
Throughout the Cold War, the U.S. maintained a large troop presence in West Germany as a deterrent to Soviet aggression against West Berlin or elsewhere in Europe. At any given time, roughly 250,000 American servicemembers were stationed in West Germany, France hosted up to 50,000 U.S. troops at various times while tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were also stationed in the United Kingdom. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, troop levels decreased ― although about 35,000 Americans remain stationed in the reunified Germany.
NATO’s first joint military interventions came in Bosnia from 1992-1995 and during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1999. This period also saw the expansion of NATO, as former Warsaw Pact member nations joined their historical foes in the alliance, which has grown to 29 members at present.
Article V was invoked by NATO members for the first time in the alliance’s history after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., and NATO members have fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan since then.
NATO also imposed a no-fly zone and carried out strikes against the military of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, provided training assistance to the Iraqi security forces after dictator Saddam Hussein was removed from power, and carried out an anti-piracy campaign in the Gulf of Aden.
At a 2014 NATO summit, allies pledged to spend at least 2% of their nation’s GDP on defense to improve NATO’s interoperability by 2024, after some members struggled to sustain military operations in Afghanistan and Libya. At the time only the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Greece met that goal but they’ve since been joined by Poland, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, and Latvia in exceeding the 2% threshold for 2018. Based on current projections, 23 of the 29 current NATO members are expected to hit the target by 2024.
It also appears probable that the alliance will continue grow in the future. Macedonia will likely be the next nation to join NATO, while there have been discussions about future membership with the governments of Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia ― two countries which experienced Russian aggression in the post-Soviet era firsthand ― plus Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other potential future members include Finland and Sweden, where public opinion has trended toward membership since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, despite their historic neutrality.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson / Public Domain)