While Trump is demanding that NATO allies pay “their fair share”, many supporters of the old order are frantically trying to save the sinking ship. Among them, McCain tops the list. He is terrified that what is left of the post war world that he grew up in, fought in, and politically served in will pass away.
A bipartisan group of US senators may have found a way to prohibit President Donald Trump from leaving NATO without Senate approval.
According to a new bill introduced by a number of senators, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), the president of the United States will require the support of two-thirds of the Senate to modify or terminate US membership in the North Atlantic Alliance.
Under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the US president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
“Just as it was required to join NATO, Senate approval should be required before this President – or any US President – can withdraw,” Senator Tim Kaine, who is a member of the Senate Armed Service and Foreign Relations committees, said in a statement.
The legislation would also authorize the Senate Legal Counsel to challenge any attempt by the president and his administration to pull out of the 29-member bloc without the Senate’s approval in court.
“Regrettably, President Trump’s mistreatment of our closest allies has raised doubts about America’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance and the values of defense. In the future, the Senate must be prepared to defend its constitutional role. This legislation is urgently required to ensure that no president can withdraw the United States from NATO without the constitutionally required advice and consent of the Senate,” Senator John McCain elaborated.
Even though President Trump has not publicly threatened to leave the transatlantic alliance, relations between the US and Europe have hit their lowest point since POTUS blasted other NATO members for not complying with their obligations to increase defense spending.
Trump has on numerous occasions stressed that the other members of the bloc should pay their “fair share” and emphasized that only five of the 29 member-states were spending two percent of their GDP to defense, which was “insufficient to close gaps in modernizing, readiness and the size of forces.”
On the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels earlier this month, the allies agreed to start spending two percent of their GDP by 2024, with Trump pointing out that he was convinced that they would boost defense expenditures in line with their commitments. At the same time, the US president suggested raising the military spending commitment up to four percent of GDP – that proposal, however, didn’t find support.
Mutual Defense Clause
Beyond defense spending, Trump recently seemed to question NATO’s Article 5 – the transatlantic bloc’s collective defense clause, stipulating that an attack on one is an attack on all.
During an interview with Fox News, Trump was asked why the US should come to the defense of Montenegro, who joined NATO last year, becoming the alliance’s 29th member.
“I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question. You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. They’re very strong people. They’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations you’re in World War III. Now I understand that, but that’s the way it was set up,” he said.
His remarks sparked a backlash from NATO, with an official, who asked to remain anonymous, telling AFP that Article 5 is “unconditional and iron-clad,” and pointing out that the mutual defense clause had only been invoked once – to support the US.
“Article 5 has only been invoked once, in support of the US after the 9/11 attacks. This led to NATO’s largest-ever operation, in Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Europe, including Montenegro, as well as Canadians, stood shoulder to shoulder with US troops and more than a thousand paid the ultimate price,” the official said.
Despite his comments, Trump signed the NATO communique, which explicitly endorsed Article 5 at the summit earlier this month.
“Any attack against one Ally will be regarded as an attack against us all, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. We will continue to stand together and act together, on the basis of solidarity, shared purpose, and fair burden-sharing,” the joint communique read.
It looks as if McCain is leading the rally to save this cold war dinosaur with the help of his neolibreal cronies in the Senate. Let us hope that this attempt fails to obstruct the fine work of Donald Trump in reforming the global political system into something that suits the modern geopolitical reality.