Video: In Senate Hearing, Kaine Highlights Concerns With Trump Threats To Withdraw From NATO
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today in a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine raised concerns with President Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw from NATO. In the hearing, Kaine pressed witnesses on the importance of NATO as a strategic alliance to advance American security and highlighted a bipartisan bill that he has introduced to prevent any President of the United States from withdrawing from NATO without Senate approval.
“The Constitution says the Senate must ratify treaties but the Constitution is silent about the U.S. withdrawing from treaties. And as a general matter of constitutional – on a matter like this, if the Constitution is silent, it creates an ambiguity. But an ambiguity can be resolved by statutory action. I have introduced a bill together with eight colleagues – four Democrats, four Republicans – largely members of this Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee to do two things. One, to say that the President cannot withdraw from NATO without either a two-thirds vote in the Senate or an act of Congress that would be both houses subject to veto and override to try to clarify that a treaty entered into with this treaty ratification could not be unilaterally abandoned by the President. The second piece would be if the President decided to do that unilaterally, there would be no funds available to be spent on the withdrawal of U.S. troops who are deployed with NATO, etcetera. Do you think a provision like that, if passed in a bipartisan way, would send a positive message to both allies and adversaries?” Kaine said.
Kaine pressed witnesses Elbridge Colby, Former Deputy Assistant of Defense for Strategy and Force Development and Ely Ratner, Former Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President on the importance of NATO as a strategic alliance:
Kaine: Could I just quickly ask Mr. Colby, Mr. Ratner, would you also agree that it would be a positive message to allies and adversaries to pass this NATO provision?
Elbridge Colby: Well Senator, I don’t know enough. I don’t have enough to say about the Constitutional aspects but I certainly think withdrawing from NATO would be a grave mistake of historical proportions. And anything of that gravity should only be done – I would think – as a matter of prudence and good judgement in consultation with other parts of the body.
Kaine: Just because you said it that well let me ask, is there any treaty that the U.S. is now part of that you think is as monumental or consequential as NATO?
Elbridge Colby: Probably not, not even the UN maybe. I don’t know.
Kaine: Right, so there’s all kinds of treaties. If this is the most momentous and consequential treaty that the U.S. is in, and it was ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, to have sort of an ambiguity and have a possibility that the President may withdraw when a Congress wants to stay in, that would be pretty destabilizing. The idea that something of that magnitude – whether we’re in or whether we’re out – it would be a good thing if there was a political consensus between the Article 1 and 2 branches about that, would you not agree?
Elbridge Colby: Well I would just say this Senator, I would agree that having a consensus is good. I also think it’s crucial to have, as I was trying to have with Senator Hawley, a new discussion about burden sharing that actually harkens back to some of the roles – I guess it was the Foreign Relations committee with the Mansfield Amendment. There needs to be a serious conversion with the NATO allies about this, but we should be committed to NATO.
Kaine: Mr. Ratner quickly before I get to Space Force.
Ely Ratner: I would support that effort from Congress sir.
Kaine: Great, thank you. Mr. Chair, it would be my hope that we would take this up as part of the NDAA discussion, because I think that especially in the 70th anniversary year of NATO, it would be really good to make sure that what we do, moving forward, moving backward, getting out, is done as a consensus between the Article 1 and 2 branches and that unilateral action, I think would be very dangerous.