NATO in the Trump Era

Kay Bailey Hutchison Nato

By Jason Coreas

Since its inception in 1949, NATO has been a cornerstone of American foreign and security policy.  The NATO alliance has proven to be a boon to the United States and its allies, as it has proven to be a guarantor of regional security and an apt promoter of democracy.

NATO was originally conceived to deter Soviet aggression and contain the spread of Communism. While NATO successfully handled conventional threats such as Soviet aggression and conflict in the Balkans, it has been less successful dealing with the uprisings in the Arab World resulting from the Arab Spring, the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and the Russian annexation of Crimea along with its subsequent intervention in Eastern Ukraine.

The alliance has suffered an identity crisis of sorts since the end of the Cold War, and NATO has had a particularly tough time reassessing its role in the 21st century as well as the roles and responsibilities of allies within NATO. Since Senator Richard Lugar’s declaration in 1993 that NATO “go out-of-area or out of business”, the alliance has undertaken a number of operations out of its traditional area of operations as well as established partnerships with non-NATO member nations as outlined in NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept.

Despite being the world’s most effective military alliance possessing a leadership structure that has stood the test of time, and the capability to neutralize any security threat to its members, fundamental differences between members regarding the resources and troop contingents members are willing to commit to NATO operations has hobbled the alliance’s ability to respond to the latest strategic challenges NATO faces. The Trans-Atlantic disconnect within NATO has been further exacerbated by the Pentagon’s frustration with the lack of ability or desire by some alliance members to meet the 2% GDP benchmark requested of members.

During the 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump called in to question the relevancy of NATO in the 21st century, and characterized the alliance as “obsolete”. Shortly after assuming office, Trump even proclaimed that in the event of an attack, the United States may not come to the aid of a NATO ally that does not meet the 2% of GDP spending threshold. In the face of concerns from other members, President Trump has since backpedaled on previous statements he has made that are critical of the alliance, but insists the majority of alliance members do not pay “their fair share” of defense expenditures associated with NATO.

Relations between Washington and Europe have been especially trying as of late due to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, his decertification of the Iran nuclear deal, and most recently, the President’s plan to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The fracture within the alliance manifested itself during the December 5th meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top officials from the EU and European NATO members.

Secretary Tillerson was given a chilly reception in Brussel, Belgium, as EU and NATO officials were strikingly candid in their criticisms of the Trump Administration’s nationalistic rhetoric and the President’s policies on defense spending, the Iranian nuclear deal and his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Secretary Tillerson appeared unfazed by the vocal criticism of the Trump administration’s policies, and stressed, “the important role that the European alliance plays in our shared security objectives.”

Building on a pledge made in 2014 by NATO allies to boost their annual defense spending by two percent of their GDP, alliance members have reaffirmed their commitment to reach the two percent gross domestic product defense spending for fiscal year 2017. This is a sign of progress to the Pentagon, but policy makers in Washington would like to see NATO members take the lead on security initiatives, especially on Europe’s Southern and Eastern flanks.  The United Kingdom, Germany and Canada are taking the lead in organizing NATO troop rotations in the Baltics in an effort to distribute mission sharing.

President Trump nominated Kay Bailey Hutchison as the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO on June of 2017 and was confirmed by the Senate in August. Ambassador Hutchison has been tasked by the President to oversee U.S objectives for NATO, including expanding cooperation between the European Union, working with non-NATO states such as Jordan and Tunisia to bolster their defenses and the integration the alliance in efforts to deter North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, among others. Below is an overview of the United States’ recently appointed Permanent Representative to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison.

 

Name: Kathryn “Kay” Bailey Hutchison

 

Title: United States Permanent Representative to NATO

 

Born: July 22nd, 1943

Galveston, Texas

 

Education: University of Texas, Austin BA (62)

University of Texas School of Law LLB (67)

 

Family: 4 children

 

Political Career: Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison became the first woman to represent Texas in the House of Representatives and served from 1973 to 1976. Hutchison served as the vice chair of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1976 to 1978. Hutchison made an unsuccessful bid for an open seat in the U.S. House in 1982 in Texas’ 3rd Congressional District.

Hutchison took an 8-year hiatus from the political world before running for, and obtaining the Texas State Treasurer’s Office in 1990. Hutchison would serve as State Treasurer until 1993 when she won the Senate seat left vacant by Lloyd Bentsen. Hutchison served three terms in the Senate and served on a number of committees and subcommittees, including the Armed Services, Military Construction, and Intelligence. Hutchison served in the Senate until 2013.

President Trump nominated Kay Bailey Hutchison as NATO Ambassador on June 29th, 2017and Ambassador Hutchison was named the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO on August 15th, 2017.

 

Professional Career: Shortly after completing her legal studies, Hutchison began her career as a Houston-based television reporter covering state politics. It was during her time as a journalist that she was inspired to enter politics after interviewing then co-chair of the Republican National Committee Anne Armstrong. In between her political appointments, Hutchison spent time in the private sector as a banking executive, owner of a candy company and as senior counsel to the Dallas-based international law firm Bracewell, LLP.

 

Personal Life: Hutchison married attorney and fellow state representative Ray Hutchison in 1981, and in 2001 they adopted two children. She also has two step-daughters from her husband’s previous marriage. Ambassador Hutchison has authored three books; Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women Who Shaped Texas, American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country and Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers

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