In the coming weeks, the Senate will begin the confirmation process for three key Administration positions: Senator John Kerry (D–MA) for Secretary of State, former Senator Chuck Hagel (R–NE) for Secretary of Defense, and White House Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan for Director of the CIA. All three have been prominent backers of President Obama’s foreign and defense policy.
When it comes to Europe, the confirmation process will serve as a good opportunity to learn where each nominee stands on the key issues. As a recent Heritage Foundation report stated:
The Senate confirmation process allows the American public an opportunity to learn more about these candidates, what they believe, and how they see America’s role in a dangerous world. The American people deserve clear answers from President Obama’s nominees and a clear-cut commitment from them that they will advance U.S. interests on the world stage and defend America’s national security needs.
This is important because since Obama’s first inauguration, this Administration’s policy toward Europe has been one of neglect, contempt, and ineptitude.
For President Obama, who’s always in campaign mode, Europe has often served as a useful backdrop—but nothing more. He used a trip to Europe as a key part of his 2008 election campaign. He ensured that his hometown of Chicago was selected for the 2012 NATO Summit—an unusual venue for the organization. British Prime Minister David Cameron was treated to a high-profile photo-op and a basketball game in the swing state of Ohio, and then a State dinner packed with dozens of top Democrat donors—all in a presidential election year, of course.
Consequently, except when it was politically convenient for Obama, Europe has barely figured in the Administration’s foreign policy.
This is regrettable. Many of America’s closest and oldest allies are in Europe. The transatlantic relationship has vitally important defense, intelligence, and economic dimensions. For more than 63 years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been the bedrock of transatlantic security. The economies of Europe, along with the U.S., account for approximately half of the global economy.
Perhaps this is why the recent Obama nominees are so alarming—they will simply offer more of the same foreign and defense policies.
The Senate should use the confirmation process as an opportunity to question each nominee on the important issues facing transatlantic relations, focusing on four areas:
- Advancing and strengthening the special relationship with Great Britain;
- Backing national sovereignty and economic freedom in Europe;
- Ensuring that NATO, and not the EU, remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security; and
- Freezing current plans to remove U.S. troops from Europe.
A strong transatlantic alliance should be at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Washington must reinvigorate partnerships with America’s key friends and allies in Europe. It should adopt policies that advance national sovereignty and economic freedom across the Atlantic rather than subvert them. The forthcoming confirmation hearings are an important opportunity for the Senate to press each nominee on these issues.