At NATO Summit, NATO PA President Connolly stresses the need for NATO to address the existential threat of authoritarianism

10 July 2024

“Today, democracy faces an historic test. If you look back in the 1930s, we democracies failed every test. [...] The difference between the 1930s and now, however, is NATO. NATO is a line even Putin does not cross. Even in his sociopathic depravity, he knows Article V is real” stressed Gerald E. Connolly (United States), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) in his address to NATO’s Heads of State and Government.

On the first day of their Summit meeting in Washington, D.C., President Connolly called upon NATO leaders to push forward NATO transformation anchored in shared democratic values. The Assembly’s President is traditionally invited to address NATO Summits to present the views of Allied legislators on the key issues affecting the Alliance.

“In Ukraine, NATO has responded with a demonstration of unity and resolve capable of redefining the future of the Alliance, if we can bring ourselves to admit an uncomfortable truth: the fight for democracy in the 21st century is an existential one and NATO is the essential party to that conflict,” urged President Connolly. 

“Democracy is the underlying raison d'être of who we are and it must permeate everything we do,” he added. “NATO is, it must be, the indispensable bulwark for democracy itself. And this bulwark is formidable. We must gird ourselves for a fight.”
To meet this challenge, the Alliance must act and “operationalise our own commitment to our founding democratic values by establishing concrete architecture at NATO Headquarters itself dedicated to democratic resilience.”

“The time has come to enshrine our commitment, after 75 years, to create a democratic resilience center to propound, defend, advocate, and be a resource for our members, partners, and aspirants about democracy.”

The Assembly has consistently recommended – in 14 resolutions and numerous reports – the establishment of a Centre for Democratic Resilience within NATO Headquarters to operationalise the Alliance’s recommitment to democratic values in the 2022 Strategic Concept and serve as a resource and clearinghouse on democratic benchmarks for NATO members, partners and aspirants. 

“Ukraine is our test,” President Connolly made clear. “The solidarity we have mustered in the face of Putin’s challenge gives lie to the myth that we are a tired and obsolete Alliance.”

“We need to meet that test […] by marrying the Alliance’s commitment to democracy, to the courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people who are fighting and dying every day for their right to join our ranks as members of the democratic family.”

Earlier this spring, the Assembly adopted its recommendations for the Washington Summit. In their contribution, Allied legislators urged the Alliance to affirm it will stand with Ukraine until victory and beyond, resource plans to strengthen NATO deterrence and defence as well as step up the Alliance’s role in defending shared democratic values. 

Yesterday, the United States delegation to the NATO PA hosted a Parliamentary Summit bringing together parliamentary leaders from the 32 NATO members as well as Ukraine, including 23 Speakers of Parliament. This high-level gathering showcased the importance of the parliamentary dimension of the Alliance and highlighted Allied Parliaments’ views on the key priorities for the Alliance.  

Mr Connolly is the US representative for Virginia’s 11th congressional district. He joined the NATO PA in 2013 and was confirmed yesterday as the NATO PA President for a second time after holding the office from November 2020 to November 2022.

The NATO PA delegation to the NATO Summit consisted of Vice-Presidents Marcos Perestrello De Vasconcellos (Portugal), Faik Oztrak (Türkiye),  Nicu Falcoi (Romania) and Theo Francken (Belgium) 


President Gerald E. Connolly's address (as delivered)

Secretary General, Mr President,
Excellencies, Dear Friends,
For 70 years, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has lifted the voice of Allied Parliaments. 
As representatives of the expressed democratic will of our people, we have embodied the principles enshrined both in the Preamble and in Article 2 of the Washington Treaty that NATO is an Alliance based on shared democratic values.
Today, democracy faces an historic test. 
If you look back in the 1930s, we democracies failed every test.
Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia. Failed. 
The Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Failed.
The collapse of the League of Nations. Failed.
The Spanish Civil War and Franco. Failed.
We failed in the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the gobbling up of the Sudetenland, and ultimately in Czechoslovakia.
And that led to the cataclysm of 1939-1945.
The difference between the 1930s and now, however, is NATO.
NATO is a line even Putin does not cross. 
Even in his sociopathic depravity, he knows we mean it about Article V.
In Ukraine, NATO has responded with a demonstration of unity and resolve capable of redefining the future of the Alliance, if we can bring ourselves to admit an uncomfortable truth: that the fight for democracy in the 21st century is an existential one and NATO is the essential party to that conflict.
Democracy is the underlying raison d'être of who we are and it must permeate everything we do.
We are far more than a military alliance that just does not like Russia.
NATO is, it must be, the indispensable bulwark for democracy itself.
And this bulwark is formidable. 
We must gird ourselves for a fight.
The alternative is building, every day, the intellectual and operational framework to undermine democracies through cyberattacks, disinformation assaults, and propaganda campaigns.
Which is why we must meet that challenge and operationalize our own commitment to our founding democratic values by establishing concrete architecture at NATO Headquarters itself dedicated to democratic resilience.
The time has come to enshrine our commitment, after 75 years, to create a democratic resilience center to propound, defend, advocate, and be a resource for our members, partners, and aspirants about democracy.
This is our NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s top recommendation and request to all of you today.
Fortunately, the predicate for such a proposal is right there in our original charter.
And the Strategic Concept you adopted two years ago in Madrid rededicates this Alliance explicitly to our founding democratic values.
Now we must act on that commitment. 
Ukraine is our test. 
The solidarity we have mustered in the face of Putin’s challenge gives lie to the myth that we are a tired and obsolete Alliance.
Think back 75 years ago. 
Europe was on its knees. The future looked very dark. 
Yet this Alliance, formed in that chaos and debris, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, created something spectacular. 
It created a free and successful Western Europe, and it stood up to Soviet challenges. 
Today, those freedoms and that success have expanded across all of Europe, liberated from the yoke of authoritarianism.
NATO met the test of its time, and it met the test of endurance over the years.
We showed the world a shining example of what democracy, collective democracy, could do and would do.
We need to meet that test again today by marrying the Alliance’s commitment to democracy, to the courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people who are fighting and dying every day for their right to join our ranks as members of the democratic family.
Thank you. And good luck.

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