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Rand Paul

Rand Paul

U.S. Senator for Kentucky | I fight for the Constitution, individual liberty and the freedoms that make this country great.

Rand Paul

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Rand Paul

Our NATO obligations do not supersede Congress’s responsibility to declare war

(The following remarks were delivered by Sen. Rand Paul ahead of the Senate voting on his proposed NATO amendment.)

Mr./Madam President,

Today, the Senate will vote to expand the NATO alliance to include Sweden to Finland.

A crucial question that should be answered is whether Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO is in America’s best interest and whether their joining will cause more or less war.

Well, for every action there is a reaction. What does our adversary say?

Putin’s immediate response was that Russia “does not have a problem” with Sweden or Finland applying for NATO membership, but that “the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will of course give rise to our reaction in response.”

So, there you have it. Russia likely will tolerate Sweden and Finland in NATO but likely will not tolerate certain weapon systems in Finland.

Advocates of NATO expansion say we can’t be held hostage to Russia’s threats. Perhaps. But if a country announces they will do X if you do Y, shouldn’t someone, at least, contemplate the potential scenarios?

The Russians have already announced that placing certain weapon systems in Finland is a red line. Whether the red line is justified is not the issue. The issue is, knowing your adversary’s position, is it worth the risk of pushing missiles into Finland?

The world has changed since Putin invaded Ukraine. Arguments that admitting Sweden and Finland to NATO could provoke Russia are less potent now, since Putin’s war shows he can be provoked by actions short of Ukraine’s actual admission to NATO.

Diplomats, though, should try to envision how the Ukraine war might end. One possible end would be, as Zelensky has stated, a neutral Ukraine not militarily aligned with either the West or the East.

Neutrality doesn’t have to be a weakness. Neutral nations can serve as intermediaries in conflict resolution. Often, our discussions with Iran use neutral Sweden as a conduit. When all nations are aligned, who will be the mediators? The world will soon lose the important roles played by a neutral Finland and Sweden.

But Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the world. In this new world, I am less adamant about preventing NATO’s expansion with Sweden and Finland.

But I am still adamant about the reality that NATO’s expansion will come at a cost. I am here today to propose a reservation to ensure that this expansion will not come at the expense of losing our ability to determine where and when the United States goes to war.

My reservation merely reasserts that Article 5 of the NATO Treaty does not supersede Congress’s responsibility to declare war before the United States commits troops to war.

The Founders designed the separation of war powers to ensure that the decision to engage in hostilities would be made only after serious deliberation. According to our Constitution, the United States will resort to war only after the collective wisdom of the people’s elected representatives determines war is in our best interest. We know this because our Founders told us so:

At the Pennsylvania ratifying convention, James Wilson stated that the proposed Constitution would not allow one man, or even one body of men, to declare war.
In Federalist No. 69, Alexander Hamilton explained that the President would be restricted to conducting the armies and navies, which Congress alone could raise and fund.
The Father of our Constitution, James Madison, argued that “In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature . . . .”

Some have argued that a vote for my amendment is to go wobbly on NATO’s Article 5 commitment.

I would argue Gold Star parents and our men and women in the field don’t want Congress to go wobbly on the Constitution.

There is no more serious question that we are entrusted to answer than whether to commit the men and women of the Armed Forces into war.

We cannot delegate that responsibility to the president, to the courts, to an international body, or to our allies.

That is our constitutional responsibility, one that we have freely taken, and one that our constituents expect us to uphold.

I also want to assure my colleagues here that adoption of my reservation will not jeopardize the NATO treaty. Some will argue that, while the substance of my reservation is unobjectionable, the process of adopting the reservation threatens the expansion of NATO. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that reservations must be accepted by other parties, but the other parties are our NATO allies. We should expect those allies to respect Article 11 of the NATO Treaty, which states that the provisions of the Treaty are to be carried out in accordance with each country’s respective constitutional processes.

Additionally, my reservation does not require any other country to take action or renegotiate the treaty. The reservation will be deemed accepted if our allies do not object after a period of twelve months.

I call on my colleagues to support my proposal to reaffirm that our Constitution and the NATO Treaty are abundantly clear: our international obligations do not supersede Congress’s responsibility to declare war before the United States commits troops to war.

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