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On the Resolution of Ratification Treaty Doc. 114-12

Despite concerns from the left that President Trump and his administration are just tools of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, Trump quietly signed a treaty last month that runs highly counter to Russia’s wishes and represents a sharp turnaround from his campaign rhetoric.

What is NATO and why is it important?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a multi-nation pact established in the wake of World War II, which pledges all 28 member countries to mutual defense and aid in case of attack or invasion. It was invoked, for example, after the September 11 attacks, as other nations’ militaries joined forces with the U.S. for the war in Afghanistan. NATO had been considered largely successful in uniting previously warring factions, such as Italy which joined in 1949, and had long enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S..

But as a presidential candidate, Trump broke this decades-long bipartisan consensus with his sharp attacks on NATO, criticizing it as “obsolete,” overly expensive, and an inhibition on American sovereignty. He even threatened to withdraw U.S. membership, a previously unthinkable position for a president or major-party presidential candidate.

Montenegro

The small European nation of Montenegro wanted admission into NATO. American approval was originally planned during the close of the Obama Administration, which was supportive of the measure. Although almost every senator approved, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) opposed, holding up the measure for several months. By delaying the vote into the Trump Administration, its fate was suddenly anybody’s guess.

Supporters noted that the Montenegro was a European democracy sharing values with America. They also noted that strategically Montenegro’s inclusion would give NATO full access to the Adriatic Sea, alongside Italy, Croatia, and Albania which were already members.

The few dissenting senators criticized it as an unnecessary measure for such a comparatively unimportant nation. “I don’t see how the accession of Montenegro, a country with a population smaller than most congressional districts, and a military smaller than the police force of the District of Columbia, is beneficial enough that we should share an agreement for collective defense,” Lee said in a speech on the Senate floor.

In April, the Senate approved 97–2 a treaty granting Montenegro membership. Paul and Lee were the two dissenters. (The House doesn’t vote on treaties.)

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s98

Trump’s turnabout

In July 2016, the New York Times asked Trump if he would use the American military to aid a potential Russian invasion of Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. Trump hedged, not answering “Yes” as America’s NATO membership would seemingly require him to do. He implied that some nations fail to pay their required dues to NATO, leaving America to pick up the slack, and he might not come to those nations’ defense.

As president, though, Trump appears to have made something of a turnaround. In early April he declared that NATO was “no longer obsolete”after meeting face-to-face for the first time with the organization’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House. Trump also plans to travel to Brussels later this month on May 25 for meetings at the organization’s headquarters.

Without publicly tipping his hand either way for his thoughts on Montenegro’s membership, on April 11 Trump signed off on America’s approval.

“Montenegro will be… signaling to other NATO aspirants that the door to membership in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations remains open and that countries in the Western Balkans are free to choose their own future and select their own partners without outside interference or intimidation,” the White House said in a statement. “The United States will work to further strengthen our already strong relationship with Montenegro and looks forward to formally welcoming the country as the twenty-ninth member of the NATO Alliance. “

Russian opposition

Russia strongly opposed Montenegro’s inclusion into NATO. Russia has made little secret of its territorial aspirations in Eastern Europe, such as its 2014 annexation of the Crimea section of Ukraine. Montenegro is a former Soviet republic, having previously been part of Yugoslavia, and as such could find itself at risk of a similar situation to Crimea.

“Given the potential of Montenegro, the North Atlantic alliance is unlikely to receive significant added value,” the Russian foreign ministry said. It added that the Montenegro government’s decision “without taking into account the opinion of the people of the country is a demonstrative act of trampling all democratic norms and principles.”

Montenegro’s parliament approved the decision with 46 affirmative votes, and while 35 pro-Russia anti-NATO members boycotted the vote, they nonetheless would not have been able to muster a majority.



Congress
115th Congress
Date
Mar 28, 2017
Chamber
Senate
Number
#98
Result:
Resolution of Ratification Agreed to

What you can do

Key: R Yea D Yea R Nay
Seat position based on our ideology score.
Totals     Republican     Democrat     Independent
  Yea 97
 
 
 
97%
49 46 2
  Nay 2
 
 
 
2%
2 0 0
Not Voting 1
 
 
 
1%
1 0 0
Required: 2/3 source: senate.gov

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Notes: “Aye” or “Yea”?
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