Nov. 19, 2015, "Sanders calls for new NATO that includes Russia," The Hill, Ben Kamisar
"Sen. Bernie Sanders
(I-Vt.) called for a new accord between America, its closest allies and
Russia as well as Arab nations as a major plank on how to destroy the
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“We must create an
organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st
century— an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration
to defeat the rise of violent extremism and importantly to address the
root causes underlying these brutal acts,” the Democratic presidential
candidate said Thursday during a speech at Georgetown University in
“We must work with our NATO partners, and expand our coalition to include Russia and members of the Arab League.”
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, started at the doorstep of the
Cold War and eventually became a major alliance against the then-Soviet
Union. So accepting Russia into NATO, or creating a new defense group
all together, would rearrange one of the world’s most powerful bonds by
uniting the former rival countries around ISIS as the modern enemy.
Sanders immediately added that the fight against the terror
organization, which has taken responsibility for last week’s attacks in
Paris, “must be done primarily by Muslim nations with the strong support
of their global partners.”
He criticized America's allies in the
region, specifically Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab
Emirates, which he believes “have contributed far too little in the
fight against ISIS.” He bashed Saudi Arabia, with the third
largest defense budget in the world, for devoting more resources to the
fight against Iranian-backed Shia Muslims in Yemen than ISIS. And he
criticized Qatar for spending a reported $200 billion on the 2022 FIFA
World Cup, “yet very little to fight against ISIS” and for not being
“vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist funding.”
this has got to change,” he said. “Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations
in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United
States to do their work for them.”
International efforts in the
region have been complicated by chaos created by the Syrian civil war,
which has allowed for a power vacuum in which ISIS has been able to
America has been vocal in its opposition to Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad, but Russia has effectively come to his aid by
attacking Syrian rebels--who are trying to uproot the embattled leader--under the guise of attacking ISIS.
Sanders reiterated his view
of Assad as a “brutal dictator” and signaled support for the
international plan, agreed on last week, to set a timetable for new
Syrian elections. But he said that defeating ISIS must be the priority
for “nations all over the world who share a common interest in
protecting themselves against international terrorists.”
The Vermont senator had rarely discussed foreign policy
on the trail until the Paris terrorist attacks last Friday. And while
he answered national security questions during last weekend’s televised
Democratic debate and has touched on the topic during his stump
speech, Thursday’s address amounted to his most expansive explanation of
“I’m not running to pursue reckless adventures abroad, but to rebuild America’s strength at home,” he said.
will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our
sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into
dubious battles with no end in sight."
But during a question
and answer session after the speech, Sanders pushed back against the
characterization that he's a foreign policy dove despite his vote
against the Iraq War.
"I did vote for the war in
Afghanistan because I thought that Osama bin Laden should be held
accountable. I did vote for President Clinton’s effort to end the ethnic
cleansing in Kosovo," he said.
"No, I am not a
pacifist. I think war should be the last resort, but we have the
strongest military on Earth and we should be prepared to use it.”
Sanders's speech came just hours after Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton called for “an intensification and an acceleration” of the American policy against ISIS."