Upholding the Founding Democratic Principles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Establishing A Center for Democratic Resilience

Floor Speech

Date: April 5, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 831) calling on the United States Government to uphold the founding democratic principles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and establish a Center for Democratic Resilience within the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as amended.

The Clerk read the title of the resolution.

The text of the resolution is as follows: H. Res. 831

Whereas the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the world's preeminent political and military alliance committed to democracy and the collective defense of its members;

Whereas the preamble of NATO's founding North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington, DC, on April 4, 1949, declares the alliance is ``founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law'';

Whereas democracies across the alliance face external threats from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China and internal threats from proponents of illiberalism;

Whereas Russia launched a full-scale invasion of sovereign and democratic Ukraine on February 24, 2022, placing it on the frontlines in the contest between democratic values and autocracy;

Whereas in his address to Congress, President Zelensky remarked ``Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy.'';

Whereas Vladimir Putin's unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine has united the NATO alliance;

Whereas there is a broad agreement within the alliance of the need to strengthen the democracies of NATO members, partners, and aspirant countries;

Whereas, in April 2020, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appointed an independent Reflection Group tasked with supporting a forward-looking reflection process meant to strengthen the political dimension of the alliance;

Whereas the Reflection Group's report, ``NATO 2030: United for a New Era'', included analyses and recommendations for the alliance to address `` `democratic recession,' the global erosion of democratic norms, and the rise of authoritarianism'', including--

(1) ``A shared democratic identity is what distinguishes the Alliance from the principal threats and challenges it faces.'';

(2) ``NATO should reassert its core identity as an Alliance rooted in the principles of democracy.'';

(3) ``Any commitment to strengthening NATO's political cohesion therefore has to be orientated toward those shared values and ideals, grounded in democracy, rule of law and individual liberty.''; and

(4) recommending the establishment of a Center of Excellence for Democratic Resilience in order to strengthen NATO democracies against external threats;

Whereas the Brussels Summit Communique issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on June 14, 2021, stated--

(1) ``NATO is the strongest and most successful Alliance in history. It guarantees the security of our territory and our one billion citizens, our freedom, and the values we share, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.'';

(2) ``State and non-state actors challenge the rules-based international order and seek to undermine democracy across the globe.''; and

(3) ``We reaffirm the Alliance's shared democratic principles as well as our commitment to the spirit and the letter of the North Atlantic Treaty.'';

Whereas in Brussels the Allies also committed to updating NATO's Strategic Concept;

Whereas NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has reiterated that one of the primary purposes of updating the Strategic Concept must be a recommitment to the founding values of the alliance;

Whereas the NATO Parliamentary Assembly supports a new Strategic Concept that reaffirms that the support and strengthening of democratic institutions is foundational to the collective security of Allies;

Whereas Russia's full-scale invasion of sovereign and democratic Ukraine underscores the importance of placing shared democratic values at the heart of NATO's Strategic Concept; and

Whereas the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has endorsed and advanced a proposal to establish a NATO Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO headquarters for the purposes of monitoring and identifying challenges to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and facilitating democracy and governance assistance to member, partner, and aspirant states, when requested: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) reaffirms its unequivocal support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an alliance founded on democratic principles;

(2) urges NATO to continue to provide unwavering support to the people of Ukraine as they fight for their sovereignty, territorial integrity, and a democratic future;

(3) calls on the President to use the voice and vote of the United States to adopt a new Strategic Concept for NATO that is clear about its support for shared democratic values and committed to enhancing NATO's capacity to strengthen democratic institutions within NATO member, partner, and aspirant countries; and

(4) calls on the President to use the voice and vote of the United States to establish a Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO headquarters.


Mr. CONNOLLY. Res. 831, as amended.

Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Greg Meeks and Ranking Member Mike McCaul for helping bring this bipartisan resolution to the floor today.

I also want to thank my partner in so much of this enterprise with respect to NATO and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Turner).

H. Res. 831, which we introduced together, Mr. Turner and I, calls on the United States Government to uphold the founding democratic principles of NATO and establish a Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO itself.

NATO's founding document, signed here in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 1949, this very week, is clear: NATO is an alliance of democracies.

The preamble to the treaty notes the determination of allies ``to safeguard the freedom, common heritage, and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.''

The alliance's commitment to shared democratic values is what distinguishes NATO from any other military alliance. Without it, NATO is just another military bloc that does not like Russia.

This commitment cannot remain purely aspirational or rhetorical. It must be operationalized. That is why we believe we need formal architecture within NATO dedicated to the promotion and advocacy of democracy.

There are divisions and units within NATO dedicated to collective defense, terrorism, interoperability, hybrid warfare, cyber, climate change, and a number of other security challenges. But after 72 years, there is not even a broom closet at NATO headquarters dedicated to the promotion of democratic institution-building within the alliance itself or with respect to the members.

The effort to establish a NATO Center for Democratic Resilience is an idea first proposed in 2019 as part of a white paper this Member of Congress wrote on ``NATO at 70.''

As the current president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I have taken that recommendation and made the strengthening of NATO's founding democratic values our number one priority.

The assembly has, in turn, endorsed this idea, the establishment of a Center for Democratic Resilience and made it a central component of the assembly's pro-democracy agenda within NATO.

And we were pleased to see the proposal included in the Group of Experts' report commissioned by the NATO Secretary General as we prepare for updating the strategic concept.

The U.S. delegation to the NATO PA, which includes Chairman Meeks and Representatives Mike Turner of Ohio, Linda Sanchez, Brett Guthrie, Rick Larsen, Neal Dunn, Brendan Boyle, Jack Bergman, Dina Titus, Austin Scott, and Filemon Vela, has jointly written to the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and our Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, encouraging the Biden administration to work with our NATO allies to operationalize support for our shared democratic principles and to establish this Center for Democratic Resilience.

And to the credit of the Biden administration and the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Julie Smith, they have followed up on our recommendation.

When we met with the North Atlantic Council in February in Brussels, Ambassador Smith made a forceful case for the establishment of the center, and we were encouraged to see several NATO Ambassadors join her in taking up the mantle and arguing in favor of the proposal.

Today, the values upon which the alliance have been founded are being challenged by external enemies of democracy, all too tragically being witnessed in the Ukraine.

These forces aim to undermine the faith in and political support for our common democracies and the alliance itself.

The strongest weapon we possess to counter effectively Putin or Xi's authoritarianism is a vibrant, robust, and immutable expression of the liberal democratic values that bind us.

Putin's renewed, full-scale aggression against Ukraine is a blatant attack on the most basic principles underlying the international order since the end of World War II, principles which Moscow has freely signed on to but ignored. President Putin seeks to crush Ukraine's democracy, intimidate other countries where the embers of democratic ambition burn, and, by implication, undermine all democracies everywhere.

We must respond by uniting around and strengthening our commitment to our shared democratic values and the rules-based order. The NATO treaty is clear: We are an alliance of democracies.

As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during the recent ministerial in Riga, Latvia: ``NATO was created to defend democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. These values define who we are. They are not optional.''

And as President Zelenskyy of Ukraine said during his recent address to this body, to the Congress: ``Right now, the destiny of our country''--Ukraine--``is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy.''

NATO stands for the preservation of that democracy. And we believe the center called for in this resolution must be part of NATO's work to build a bulwark against authoritarianism and democratic backsliding as we proceed.

I thank the bipartisan group of members of the U.S. delegation to NATO PA for their support as they joined us in this effort, and I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this strong bipartisan resolution.


Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend from Ohio for his leadership. He is the former President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, as well, and he has provided unwavering support for America's leadership in this alliance and for the alliance itself. And he is a highly respected figure on both sides of the Atlantic, and I thank him for his leadership.


Mr. BRENDAN F. BOYLE of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues, both of whom have served as not only Members of this House and members of the parliamentary assembly, but both have led that body as president emeritus and our current president, Mr. Connolly.

I was there in Brussels with my colleagues just a month ago in the days immediately preceding Vladimir Putin's brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. And there our delegation, on a bipartisan basis, made the case for this resolution, made the case for why such a center is needed now more than ever.

We are seeing an attack not only on the people of Ukraine, but on our democratic values. They are at stake in a way today that they haven't been since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And in some sense, they haven't been under this sort of attack since 1945.

I am proud to be a part, as Mr. Connolly mentioned, of our NATO Parliamentary Assembly. We will be going this weekend to another such NATO PA meeting.

This association, this alliance is needed now more than ever. I am so proud to see this country redouble its commitment to the alliance, but as Mr. Connolly has said time and time again, this cannot just be an alliance built on our shared interest, it must be an alliance based on our shared values.

So I strongly support this resolution, and I urge its unanimous bipartisan adoption.


Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, all I can say is having authored this language, I don't know what the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Harris) is referring to.

When we talk about illiberal forces within the NATO alliance, it is all-inclusive. The New York Times did an extensive podcast series on illiberal, rightwing groups within Germany's police and military; not Hungary, not Poland: Germany.

Many of our colleagues, when we meet in NATO Parliamentary Assembly meetings, express concern about their own internal challenges to their own democratic institutions.

And it is simply false that we are somehow selecting any particular country. This is a concern expressed by virtually all; and we recognize that we have got work to do in showing up and building democratic institutions, even within the alliance; that we can't take it for granted.

What we say is democracy is resilient, but it can also be fragile; and that is what this reference is about, and would be recognized by virtually every NATO member as such.

So while I certainly can understand Mr. Harris wanting to express a concern, I would hope we have debunked it because it is nowhere even close to being what he has characterized.

I think this is a really important resolution. It is also timely because, as Mr. Boyle indicated, we have our next NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Athens this weekend; and if we are going to have input to the strategic concept of NATO, which is being revised and will be adopted next month, in May, we have got to have this in hand as an expression, a bipartisan expression of the collective concern and commitment of this body.

I am honored by the fact that this is bipartisan. It passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee overwhelmingly, and I would hope that later today we have a strong bipartisan vote on this resolution so we can bring it to our deliberations in Athens and in Madrid in the next 2 months.