Earlier today, more than 60 members of parliament from 20 NATO member states and from partner country Finland met online with high-ranking US government officials and leading experts to take stock of transatlantic relations at a critical time for NATO.
The meeting came a day after NATO Foreign Ministers met in Brussels, with the new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken taking part for the first time.
“This has already been a big week for the transatlantic relationship,” said Gerald E. Connolly (United States), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) when opening proceedings. “And I’m very happy we can close it out with our biggest annual event focused on the ties that bind us across the Atlantic.”
Allied leaders will meet in Brussels later in the year to consider the Secretary General Stoltenberg’s NATO 2030 recommendations and start the revision of NATO’s Strategic Concept. 2021 will therefore be a pivotal year for NATO adaptation, and strong transatlantic relations are both a precondition and a vital priority.
“The United States Congress has always been steadfast in our unwavering commitment to NATO and to the transatlantic relationship, and we will continue to play our part,” he added.
“Today’s discussions with key US policy makers and experts present an important opportunity to understand and discuss the challenges and threats we face as an Alliance and how we must adapt,” President Connolly noted. “More importantly, it is a critical opportunity to continue our discussions on the Assembly’s contribution to NATO’s adaptation.”
A top priority for the NATO PA is to help the Alliance rededicate itself to its democratic foundations.
“The assault on the US Capitol on 6 January has demonstrated that democracy, while resilient, is also fragile. And the evidence released recently of Russia’s interference in our elections highlights the threat which the global march of autocracy poses to our democracies,” noted Congressman Connolly. “We must constantly strengthen and protect democracy against attempts to undermine it – both from within and from without.”
Importantly, members and the invited speakers discussed how to advance the Assembly’s recommendation to establish a NATO Democratic Resilience Centre.
“NATO has a well-oiled machinery focused on military matters, but it lacks a body which is fully focused on defending our democracies,” the President stressed.
Congressman Connolly first proposed the idea for such a Centre in 2019. It has since been backed up by the Assembly as a whole as well as the independent Group of Experts appointed by the NATO Secretary General for the NATO 2030 process.
The lawmakers addressed other critical topics on the transatlantic agenda during their deliberations, including:
- strengthening deterrence and defence in an era of global complexity,
- the Biden administration’s foreign policy priorities,
- Russia’s ongoing aggressive actions,
- the security implications of China’s rise and
- security challenges and opportunities in the Gulf Region.
The Parliamentary Transatlantic Forum is normally held annually in Washington, D.C. in cooperation with the National Defense University (NDU) and the Atlantic Council of the United States (ACUS).