07.11.18

[AUDIO] Sen. Coons: Trump should “lock arms with our NATO allies and say let's work together against our real adversary, Russia.”

Sen. Coons: “The allies that I recently visited on this bipartisan CODEL said that they are really concerned that they can no longer depend on the United States.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today joined NPR Morning Edition to discuss NATO and the Supreme Court.

“I think all of us have a graver concern that President Trump has an uncomfortably close relationship with Russia. We passed a resolution on the floor of the Senate last night to instruct the conferees on our defense authorization bill, to reinforce the centrality of NATO. The Foreign Relations Committee I serve on is taking another vote later today to reinforce that the president should not recognize Russian annexation of Crimea or do anything to weaken the NATO alliance. That is a strongly bipartisan resolution that will get near unanimous support,” said Senator Coons.

Audio available here.

Excerpts from the interview below:

Sen. Coons on NATO: It is only fair to the extent that of the NATO alliance, many of them are still below the two-percent-of-GDP target for defense spending that they're supposed to reach by 2024. But let me remind you what they have done. NATO is a collective security alliance, and for the very first time, Article V of the NATO treaty was invoked when the United States was attacked. And more than 1,000 NATO soldiers have died fighting in Afghanistan alongside Americans. No other NATO country was attacked on 9/11, the United States was attacked. And it's not a country club, where you get in arrears on your dues and where you're supposed to pay your dues back. It is a collective security agreement. I would have hoped that President Trump would say 'you're all actually increasing your defense spending.' It's actually gone up by more than $14 billion since he started haranguing them. He should declare victory and then lock arms with our NATO allies and say 'let's work together against our real adversary, Russia.'

More on NATO: He has successfully gotten many of our vital NATO allies to increase their defense spending, their interoperability, their training, but frankly he's also scaring the daylights out of them. I was recently on a bipartisan trip, we went to visit northern Europe, to several of our key NATO allies, and they are gravely concerned.

Sen. Coons on Germany and Russia: Germany has long-had close ties to Russia in terms of its energy reliance. This has been accentuated because Germany's committed to reducing its nuclear energy fleet as part of its base load. And so, they're increasing their reliance on Russian gas. I think it misses the core point, which is that NATO is a security alliance. And just because they are paying for Russian gas doesn't mean they are somehow beholden to Russia. In fact, I think all of us have a graver concern that President Trump has an uncomfortably close relationship with Russia. We passed a resolution on the floor of the Senate last night to instruct the conferees on our defense authorization bill, to reinforce the centrality of NATO. The Foreign Relations Committee I serve on is taking another vote later today to reinforce that the president should not recognize Russian annexation of Crimea or do anything to weaken the NATO alliance. That is a strongly bipartisan resolution that will get near unanimous support.

More on NATO: Because President Trump is such an outlier, even in his own party, in continuing to say things that suggest that we aren't fully committed to the NATO alliance. I commend him for getting our allies to increase their defense spending, but that's not all he's doing. He's saying other things, such as this attack on Germany.

More on NATO: He is. I'm concerned about that. The allies that I recently visited on this bipartisan CODEL said that they are really concerned that they can no longer depend on the United States.

Sen. Coons on Judge Kavanaugh: Our job on the Judiciary Committee is to consider a nominee carefully and thoughtfully, to read into their background. We don't have the information on Judge Kavanaugh yet. We should be getting all the information about what he did in the Bush administration, what he did on the Starr independent counsel team that he served on, and review his decisions on the D.C. Circuit, and then reach a conclusion. That's our job. That's how we should approach it. 

More on the Supreme Court: I will tell you that I am leaning against Judge Kavanaugh given what I know so far about his decisional record, but I've known Brett nearly 30 years. I met him in law school. And I've followed his career. He is very smart, he is very capable. He is very conservative. But I couldn't yet articulate to you, in like three sentences, 'here's why I'm convinced his jurisprudence will take us far too far to the right,' but I am concerned across a wide range of important topics.

More on the Supreme Court: We need Republicans to recognize that this is important, that courts matter, that it will impact people's lives. And so, if you're listening, and if you're concerned, call your senator. Don't presume that because of the numbers this is a foregone conclusion.

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Press Contact

CONTACT: Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov