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Senators seek to prohibit Trump from quitting NATO

President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at the NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018. A group of senators has proposed a bill that would prohibit a U.S. president from leaving the alliance without Senate consent.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATO

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 27, 2018

A group of U.S. senators worried about President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO introduced a bill Thursday that would prohibit a U.S. president from pulling out of the alliance.

“Regrettably, President Trump’s mistreatment of our closest allies has raised doubts about America’s commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance and the values of defense,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.

The bipartisan bill, which was introduced by McCain and a group of Democrats, would require the president to get consent from the Senate in order to modify or terminate U.S. membership in NATO.

“If the President attempts to withdraw from NATO without Senate approval, this bill also authorizes the Senate Legal Counsel to challenge the Administration in court,” the senators said in a joint statement.

The bill comes two weeks after Trump, during a July 12 news conference at the end of a NATO summit in Brussels, said he believed he had the authority as president to quit the alliance but did not intend to do so.

During his presidency, Trump has repeatedly chastised allies who he says don’t invest sufficiently in their own militaries and fall short of a NATO benchmark that calls for spending 2 percent of their respective gross domestic product on the military.

At the contentious NATO summit, Trump threatened that the U.S. would go it alone if members didn’t start doing more. By the end of talks, he said he was satisfied with commitments from members to do more in the future and that NATO was now “much stronger” and a “fine-tuned machine.”

However, Trump’s mixed messages have rattled allies. Days after the NATO meeting and a subsequent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump expressed ambivalence about defending tiny NATO member Montenegro if it came under attack.

“Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people,” Trump said on a July 17 Fox News program. “They are very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and congratulations you are in World War III.”

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the Senate bill sends a signal of U.S. commitment to allies unnerved by Trump’s criticisms.

“This bill has become necessary because some of our closest allies have come to question the reliability of President Trump’s commitment to collective self-defense and security guarantees,” Reed said in a statement. “Regardless of the President’s tweets or statements, there remains strong, bipartisan support for and commitment to the NATO alliance in Congress.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

 

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