As 2024 approaches, Hawley takes a Trumpian twist to cut NATO

“I was in the very distinct minority of Ukraine [aid] package,” Hawley said in a brief interview. “I don’t think it’s qualitatively different from that.”

In a provocative platform, the freshman senator said he plans to oppose offers from both countries to join the alliance because he believes the United States should prioritize the myriad threats emanating from China over other countries. extend their security commitments in Europe. He has long called for reducing US troop numbers in Europe in favor of an Asia-centric strategy.

With the Senate due to vote on Finland and Sweden joining NATO on Wednesday, Hawley’s fellow Republicans wasted no time digging into his argument.

“I think that’s a mistake,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been open about his own White House aspirations, said in an interview. “We don’t beat China by withdrawing from the rest of the world. We beat China by standing with our allies against our enemies.

Cruz and Hawley have long differed over the US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, most recently over the latest round of military and humanitarian assistance to Kyiv. They were also approve different candidates in the GOP Senate primaries this year, which some see as a proxy for a future presidential primary.

This dynamic makes Hawley’s opposition to NATO expansion – whose members were pushed by then-President Trump increase their defense spending and then consider admitting Middle Eastern nations — in a microcosm of the GOP’s larger battle over its global identity.

Cruz, with the senses. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), generally epitomized their party’s warmongering during the Reagan era, while Hawley veers to an “America-first” approach that the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called an isolationist.

Hawley has made it clear that he thinks the GOP is underserved by foreign policy traditionalism and that the Republican voter base is on his side — and Trump’s. He presented the case on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to a sympathetic audience, aligning himself with MAGA billionaire Peter Thiel.

In saying that the United States should not expand its security commitments in Europe, Hawley is arguably going even further than the former president in describing NATO’s growth in zero-sum competition with other priorities abroad.

“We need to do less in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to prioritize China and Asia,” Hawley wrote in the op-ed. “[E]Even absent an armed conflict, NATO expansion would almost certainly mean more US forces in Europe in the long term, more military hardware devoted to it, and more dollars spent – ​​at the expense of our security needs. in Asia, not to mention the needs at home. ”

Although there is a broad consensus in Congress that China poses the most significant long-term threat to US interests, the vast majority of lawmakers consider adding Finland and Sweden to the NATO as a net positive for efforts to contain Beijing. They argue that NATO expansion gives the United States some breathing room to focus on the Pacific and sends a message to China that the United States will take action to defend its interests around the world.

“These are two countries that have quite significant military capabilities,” said Rubio, a 2016 presidential candidate and vocal Chinese hawk, referring to Finland and Sweden. “And their presence in the NATO alliance should, if we wanted to, free up our resources so that it’s not such a heavy burden for us on the broader NATO obligations.”

Rubio has gone a step further by writing a Tuesday editorial in competition which takes direct aim at Hawley’s argument with the headline “A Stronger NATO Allows America to Focus on the Communist China Threat”. McConnell made a similar point, telling POLITICO in a recent interview that the best way to fend off China is to defeat Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

Hawley’s opposition to Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership places him in a minority beyond his party. He could end up being the only senator to oppose the defense treaty when it comes to the Senate floor, which is due this week. (Utah GOP Senator Mike Lee has yet to announce his position but has previously opposed NATO expansion.)

Although Hawley has said he does not plan to run for the White House in two years, when he is expected to be re-elected to the Senate, his opposition to President Joe Biden’s program has sparked frequent speculation on his future. And ahead of the vote, other GOP senators who would consider a presidential election in 2024 or beyond are making clear their support for NATO expansion.

Rubio is a clear yes; and Cotton, who has visited key presidential primary states in recent months, issued a statement backing Finland’s membership the day its leaders announced their candidacy.

Even Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who opposed the last two NATO additions, plans to vote “present” on Finland and Sweden.

It is still unclear whether senators will vote on Finland and Sweden join NATO ahead of their August recess, although Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the measure could be introduced on Wednesday, before calling his party’s health, tax and climate bill.

More than half of NATO’s 30 member countries have already approved the two countries’ membership bids, putting additional pressure on Senate leaders to finish the job.

Hawley’s posturing didn’t just irritate fellow Republicans. He has also stoked tensions with the other side of the aisle, particularly with his relentless efforts to block uncontroversial Pentagon appointments over a failed attempt to pressure Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to resign. for his management of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Asked about Hawley’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) – who co-chairs the NATO Observer Group in the Senate and is is beaten with him several times on the floor – rolled his eyes and replied: “He is irrelevant.

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