US Senate revives NATO Observer Group

3 March 2018

A bipartisan US group of lawmakers aimed at strengthening congressional ties with NATO has been re-established, more than a decade after it was disbanded. US Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis relaunched the Senate NATO Observer Group, which they will co-chair. Initially established in 1997, the group oversaw a number of alliance enlargement rounds and served as a focal point among US administrations, NATO and Congress before it became inactive in 2007.

Shaheen, a Democrat, said "Now more than ever, it's imperative that the United States work closely with NATO to respond to the ever-evolving threats to Western democracies, particularly from the Kremlin". She added, "This new Senate NATO Observer Group will serve as a focal point for engagement between NATO and the Senate as these institutions seek to strengthen transatlantic bonds and modernise NATO to respond to hybrid warfare and other threats".

Tillis, a Republican, said the primary reason for resurrecting the group is to signal to allies that US legislators stand by NATO. "We also stand with newer [entrants] into NATO and possibly others", said Senator Tillis, adding that "one thing that is common among all countries Western countries, free nations is that NATO is a calming influence on the world. And it is probably one of the greatest contributors to global security".

Also at the launch was Assistant US Secretary of State for European Affairs Wess Mitchell, who emphasized US commitments to NATO.

The Senate NATO Observer Group has 10 members, including the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Intelligence, and defence appropriations committees. The co-chairs hope to work with Republican and Democratic leaders to expand membership by reaching out to legislators who are not currently serving on national security committees. The group plans to make several trips to NATO allies "and make it very clear to them America's commitment is strong", Tillis said.