After a month of European leaders publicly questioning the U.S.’s commitment to its partners on the continent, America’s ambassador to NATO told a Washington, D.C., audience that “we are one, together for our security.”
In a show of unity, Kay Bailey Hutchison appeared at the Atlantic Council with her two anglophone counterparts, the United Kingdom and Canada’s ambassadors to the alliance: Sarah MacIntosh and Kerry Buck — or “the three amigas,” as Buck put it.
“I wanted to be with them because you will begin to see [not only] what a unified…alliance we have, but a unified message,” Hutchison said.
That message of unity is no doubt aimed at Russia and others who welcome tension between members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal left other parties in the agreement — American allies — in a tricky spot economically and publicly questioning their ability to count on the United States. Earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe can no longer count on the U.S. military umbrella and “needs to take its fate into its own hands.” European Council President Donald Tusk was more direct in a tweet: “We realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm,” he said.
In her talk, Hutchinson said, “In the last few weeks [there has] been a lot of talk about, ‘Well is the North Atlantic bond still a bond? Is it still an alliance?’ Yes, the answer is yes. We are.”
“We know that there will always be discussions, maybe disputes… among different countries in our alliance. That is not unusual,” she added. “But when it comes to the goals of NATO, when it comes to what we know we have to do for our common defense, our security blanket, our security umbrella, we are one.”
Hutchinson specifically underscored the U.S.’s commitment to the collective defense of Europe.
“America is committed to NATO, to Article 5, I promise you we really are, a and the president has said it publicly many times,” she said. “I think our allies and our partners know that, but we can never say it too many times.”
All three diplomats said a strong, united front was one of the key things that would need to come out of the next NATO summit, to be held this July in Brussels. Not just for the sake of the institution, but as a strategic end, in and of itself. “It’s about deterrence,” Buck said.
Other things the ambassadors are looking for from the biannual meeting of member heads of state: ratification of a new command structure that adds a logistics command and a maritime one, an agreement to increase NATO’s contribution to counterterrorism, and decisions on cyber operations and capabilities, among other things.
And America is unsurprisingly looking for member countries to commit to spend more on defense: “The appropriate amount of burden sharing … is part of what will be a deliverable at the summit,” Hutchison said.