Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) thanked Poland, Finland, the United Kingdom and several other NATO allies for investing in their own defense during a speech yesterday on the Senate floor. Kennedy urged every member of NATO to keep its word and increase its defense spending to 2% of its GDP. He warned that NATO’s strength depends on every country pulling its weight.
“As with many challenges in life, madam president, I believe that the difficulties we face today can make NATO stronger tomorrow. I believe that, but that will only happen if we are honest with each other. Friends tell friends the truth. And here’s the truth as I see it: NATO is one of the most impactful defense pacts in all of human history. The United States is a proud NATO member. The American people support NATO.
“But it is also no secret that some of our friends in NATO have not been taking their own defense and defense spending seriously. They had not been taking their own defense and defense spending seriously even before Vladimir Putin began his illegal assault on Ukraine. As the full extent of Putin’s cruelty unfolded last year, NATO leaders, they appeared at first to regard it as a wake-up call—and that’s a good thing. It was a wake-up call for many people throughout the world, but sometime, somehow, over the past year, those same countries fell back asleep.”
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“It took less than a year after Putin entered Ukraine for those same leaders to begin to renege again. . . . Friends tell friends the truth. Recent analysis shows, as of today, just 11 out of the 31 countries currently in NATO are on track to fulfill their 2% defense spending obligation.”
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“In the United States of America, we keep our promises, and, all along, every year through the history of NATO, we have proudly invested in our defense to the benefit of our allies—to our own benefit, but to the benefit of our allies. It was important to our allies in Europe. It was. I don’t know what would have happened in Europe had the American people not come to Ukraine’s rescue. Putin may be in Paris right now, for all I know—God forbid.
“A few of our NATO friends have kept their commitment, and I want to thank them. Our friends in Greece, for example. Our friends in the United Kingdom. Our friends in Estonia. They spent 2% of their GDP on defense before Putin invaded—and our friends in Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia will all reach the 2% threshold by the end of this year, and that’s a good thing. Thank you, Greece. Thank you, United Kingdom. Thank you, Estonia. Thank you, Lithuania, and Hungry, and Slovakia for keeping your word.
“Finland just joined our NATO alliance this year. We’re so pleased. Our friends in Finland spent 2% on defense before joining NATO, but they didn’t use the alliance as a reason to take their foot off the gas. Instead, Finland recently increased defense spending even more to 2.4% of their GDP. Thank you, Finland. I hope our allies who have been nestled safely under the NATO umbrella for years without pulling their financial weight will take note of Finland’s dedication. Let me say it again: Thank you, Finland.
“We got to commend Poland. Poland spent 2% on defense long before Putin invaded Ukraine, but over the past two years, it hasn’t spent 2%, Poland hasn’t. It nearly doubled its defense spending to 4.3%. It is investing that money in part by buying American weapons, and it’s showing Putin that Poland is serious about its sovereignty. And that Poland is serious about freedom. By the end of this decade, Poland is on pace to have more tanks than the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy put together. Thank you, Poland.”
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“It’s been more than a year, Madam President—you know as well as I do—since Putin sent Russian tanks and troops into Ukraine. Maybe for some, the horror of it all has worn off, maybe. It hasn’t worn off for most Americans, and it sure hasn’t worn off for Ukraine. Citizens of a sovereign Ukraine are still dodging missiles on their own streets, and Putin is still watching too many NATO members bury their heads and drag their feet, and so is President Xi Jinping.
“Now Madam President, I don’t mean to offend anyone. I don’t, but friends tell friends the truth. Everyone in NATO is a friend, and I am so proud that the United States is a member of NATO, but NATO is only as strong as our confidence in one another. If we want to strengthen NATO’s ability to deter bad actors from bad acts, we’ve each got to do our part. It’s time for all of us in NATO to start keeping our promises and investing in our defense.”
Kennedy’s full remarks are here.