Testifying before the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Honorable Derek Chollet of the German Marshall Fund reviewed the agenda for the upcoming NATO Summit, which will commence on July 8, 2016 in Warsaw. A former Pentagon official, Mr. Chollet now serves as counselor and senior advisor for security and defense policy at GMF. Mr. Chollet, who testified alongside Ian Brzezinski of the Atlantic Council, stated that the upcoming Summit presents an opportunity to strengthen the Alliance amid a host of internal and external threats.
In his testimony, Mr. Chollet said that the U.S. needs to put more of a focus on exercising meaningful deterrence against Russian aggression rather than merely reassuring European allies of its commitment to their security. He showed optimism when discussing recent actions taken by NATO, claiming that an increase in sustained support and training is proof that the Alliance is on track. Responding to a question from Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), he reiterated the importance of sustained support and heightened readiness and responsiveness, saying that a shift towards deterrence must start with presence and posture. Mr. Chollet also stated that NATO needs to reaffirm its open-door policy.
Some members of the Committee expressed concern that lack of uniform burden-sharing and unity within NATO are obstacles to achieving deterrence. Chairman Corker (R-TN) expressed frustration that the U.S provides 75 percent of NATO’s military spending and said that it is “highly offensive” for Germany to only spend 1.18 percent of its GDP on NATO, which is significantly lower than the 2 percent GDP defense-spending requirement agreed to by all members. Ranking Member Cardin (D-MD) questioned whether there is enough unity within the Alliance to achieve effective deterrence, citing Bulgaria’s refusal to participate in joint exercises in the Black Sea and a recent comment by the German Foreign Minister labeling NATO’s recent actions as “warmongering”.
Mr. Chollet responded to Chairman Corker’s concern, saying that NATO must continue to press this issue with Germany while also recognizing that an increase in defense spending is ultimately a political question that is currently being debated within the German government. In addressing Ranking Member Cardin’s concern about unity, Mr. Chollet said that there is unity, but this unity should not be assumed due to varying political climates within each member country.
Mr. Chollet also stressed the importance of galvanizing support for the Alliance among the members’ publics. He stated that each country needs buy-in from its people in order to make the sacrifices NATO requires of its members. In dealing with Europe, which is facing its own internal struggles, NATO will have to ensure that it continues to receive the support that it needs to make these necessary sacrifices. Citing a reason to be hopeful for the Warsaw Summit and NATO’s continued success, Mr. Chollet stated that 77 percent of Americans believed that being a part of NATO was beneficial for the United States.