U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks Wednesday on the Senate floor regarding national defense:
“I’d like to begin today by quoting a concise assessment of threats facing the United States and our interests.
“Quote: ‘A central continuity in history is the contest for power. (…) Three main sets of challengers – the revisionist powers of China and Russia, the rogue states of Iran and North Korea, and transnational threat organizations, particularly jihadist terrorist groups – are actively competing against the United States and our allies and partners. (…)’
“’China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests. China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favor. Russia seeks to restore its great power status and establish spheres of influence near its borders.’ End quote.
“That, Mr. President, was the previous Administration’s national security strategy, circa 2017. If anything, the threats it warned about at the end of its first year in office are even greater today.
“Russia and China have both become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad. Just before Russia’s escalation of its war against Ukraine, our two most significant revisionist adversaries announced a ’friendship without limits’. And in the past year and a half, Putin has aligned Russia even more openly with rogue regimes hostile to the United States like Iran and North Korea.
“We must not ignore this contest for power. Here’s another passage from the 2017 strategy.
“Quote: ‘To prevail, we must integrate all elements of America’s national power—political, economic, and military. Our allies and partners must also contribute the capabilities, and demonstrate the will, to confront shared threats. Experience suggests that the willingness of rivals to abandon or forgo aggression depends on their perception of U.S. strength and the vitality of our alliances.’ End quote.
“In my view, the lessons are clear.
“Under the previous Administration, we began to rebuild America’s strength with defense budget increases. Under the current Administration, that strength has been undermined by a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan… Desperate diplomacy towards Tehran… A head-in-the-sand approach to North Korea…
“Our enemies have been encouraged by meager defense budgets across NATO, including repeated budget requests by this Administration that failed even to keep pace with inflation.
“Since Putin’s escalation in Ukraine, President Biden has not been as decisive as many of us would like. But this is no excuse for Congress to compound his Administration’s failures with failures of our own.
“Now – with NATO unified and Europe awakened from its defense holiday and starting to spend real money on our collective defense – is not the time to go wobbly.
“Now, with Ukraine bravely defending its sovereignty and eroding Russia’s capacity to threaten NATO, is not the time to ease up.
“Now, with Russia and China’s ‘friendship without limits’ and Putin’s embrace of Iran and North Korea, is not the time for America to step back.
“Mr. President, I’ll have more to say on the conflict in Ukraine, how the President hasn’t been decisive enough, how our assistance is being used to good effect, and how additional appropriations are critical for our defense industrial base and competition with China. But for now, let’s just be absolutely clear about a few things:
“Helping Ukraine retake its territory means weakening one of America’s biggest strategic adversaries without firing a shot… and deterring another one in the process.
“It means investing directly in American strength – both military and economic.
“And our colleagues will have the opportunity to do all of this when we pass supplemental appropriations before the month is out.”