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US senators revive NATO Observer Group

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  • US senators revive NATO Observer Group

    Good news. Hope this gets some traction.

    US senators revive NATO Observer Group to signal ally support, Russian deterrance

    WASHINGTON - Two U.S lawmakers are restarting a a bipartisan group to signal the Senate’s commitment to NATO and deterring Russian aggression.

    The revival of the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization Observer Group, by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., comes after President Donald Trump ruffled NATO allies early in his presidency by criticizing the alliance.

    Yet both senators downplayed the timing of their announcement, and whether it was a reaction to the president.

    “I wish I could draw that connection for you,” Shaheen told reporters at the roll out event on Wednesday. “Really it’s the result of the threats from Russia. [With America’s European Deterrence Initiative], this is another opportunity for us in the Senate to show our support for the efforts to deter Russia and to make sure there’s support in the Senate for NATO.”

    It also came a day after U.S. Cyber Command’s chief said he had not received orders from the White House to respond to Moscow’s meddling in U.S. elections and amid a growing call for the president to denounce Russia.

    Two weeks earlier at the Munich Security Conference, no U.S. cabinet-level officials addressed the conference, and the idea of a European-led defense initiative was a hot topic.

    Shaheen said that when she was at Munich, she heard less worrying from allies about America’s commitment to NATO than she had a year earlier and more about how to advanced the changed relationship.

    Those changes appeared to be reflected in the new mission of the group, which was first established in 1997 amid an expansion of the alliance and disbanded in 2007, when no new countries were joining.

    Since then, Russia has occupied territory in Georgia, its annexation of Crimea — declared illegal by the United Nations — and it has interfered in European democracies, as well as U.S. elections.

    Now, lawmakers said the group will cover defense spending commitments of NATO members, the process of upgrading military capabilities, the alliance’s counter-terrorism efforts and the ability of member states to address non-conventional warfare.

    Shaheen said lawmakers began work to relaunch the group last fall, when allies were more jittery about the U.S. commitment to NATO. It was also spurred by delays in the Senate’s approval of Montenegro’s accession to NATO — which ultimately passed with all but two votes.

    The group’s revival was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Its members will include the chairmen and top Democrats on the armed services, intelligence, foreign relations and appropriations committees.
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."