Senate Rejects NDAA Amendment Limiting US Ability to Join NATO Wars
Senate Rejects NDAA Amendment Limiting US Ability to Join NATO Wars

By Ryan Morgan

The Senate voted on Wednesday against an amendment that states that the United States cannot be drawn into a conflict through NATO’s Article 5 collective defense terms without the U.S. Congress first issuing a declaration of war.

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that all NATO member nations, including the United States, are obligated to come to the defense of any single NATO member nation that is attacked. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which states, “It is the sense of Congress that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty does not supersede the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war before the United States engages in war.”

The amendment failed to make it into the Senate’s NDAA, after a vote of 16–83. Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), John Kennedy (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) joined Mr. Paul. All other senators opposed the NDAA amendment, except for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who did not vote.

“According to our Constitution, we resort to war only after the people’s elected representatives deliberate and determine that it is in our best interest. My amendment is also consistent with the NATO Treaty. Article Five of the treaty commits allies to respond to an attack that allows each ally to determine whether to engage in military hostilities,” Mr. Paul said in a Senate floor speech urging passage of the amendment. “Article 11 of the NATO Treaty states its provisions are to be carried out by each country’s constitutional process. We cannot delegate our responsibility to NATO, nor are we expected to. Let’s reaffirm that Article Five does not supersede Congress’s responsibility to declare war.”

Speaking in opposition to the amendment, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), said making such a clarification about NATO Article 5 and the Constitution is “unnecessary” and could give the impression of a lack of U.S. support for the other members of the alliance at a dangerous time.

“There’s no question that like any other treaty, the NATO Treaty does not supersede the Constitution. However, specifically calling out Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty here erroneously implies there is a tension between it and the Constitution,” Mr. Menendez said. “This sends a damaging message about the U.S. commitment to alliances at a time when support for NATO is as critical as ever given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Senate Votes To Block Future Presidents From Leaving NATO

Just before voting against Mr. Paul’s amendment, the Senate voted in favor of a different amendment that would actually prevent any U.S. presidency from withdrawing from the NATO alliance without the advice and consent of the Senate or through a specific act of Congress.

This amendment was introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and borrows language from a bill he and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) proposed last week.

In addition to barring any U.S. president from withdrawing the United States from NATO without first going through Congress, Mr. Kaine’s amendment also attempts to take away any resources a president may use to end U.S. participation in NATO without Congressional approval. A president would not be able to use any taxpayer funds to bring about a U.S. withdrawal from NATO and the resolution authorizes Congress to challenge any such presidential actions in federal court.

The amendment passed in the Senate by a vote of 65–28, with only Republicans opposing the measures constraining the presidency from withdrawing from NATO.

Mr. Kaine has supported such legislation for years. In 2018, Mr. Kaine and other senators attempted to pass a bill to constrain a president’s ability to leave NATO in 2018 after President Donald Trump aired frustration with the alliance and suggested he’d leave NATO if other member nations didn’t contribute more. Mr. Kaine has raised subsequent efforts requiring congressional approval for withdrawing from NATO.

Ukraine War Heightens NATO Concerns

There are some risks that the war between Russia and Ukraine could spill over into a direct conflict between Russia and the NATO alliance, which has been backing Ukrainian forces.

In November, a missile left the confines of the fighting in Ukraine, landing in a Polish border town and killing two civilians. Following that incident, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was quick to attribute the deaths to a Russian attack and suggested the incident implicated NATO’s collective security agreement.

“The longer Russia feels impunity, the more threats there will be to anyone within reach of Russian missiles. To fire missiles at NATO territory! This is a Russian missile attack on collective security! This is a very significant escalation. We must act,” Mr. Zelenskyy said shortly after the missile landed in Poland.

Mr. Menendez also brought up NATO Article 5 after the missile hit Poland, telling Politico, “I hope that the Russians apologize quickly for the loss of life and express that it wasn’t intentional. Obviously, if it was intentional, that has all kinds of consequences to it. It’s definitely an enlargement of the conflict and, of course, it brings into question Article 5.”

NATO leaders eventually concluded that the missile that hit Poland in November was a Ukrainian air defense missile that had been fired in an attempt to defend Ukrainian territory from a Russian aerial attack.

The potential for a direct conflict between Russia and NATO has again come up in recent weeks.

On June 22, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a resolution that states if radioactive contaminants spill over into a NATO country as the result of Russia using a nuclear weapon against Ukraine or a Ukrainian nuclear facility being destroyed, it will be considered an attack on the alliance and carry NATO Article 5 implications. The resolution also calls for President Joe Biden’s administration to begin planning with NATO counterparts for this exact scenario.

From NTD News

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