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Hearing comes as NATO prepares to update and rewrite its Strategic Concept document

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today convened her first hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, bringing together expert witnesses to discuss the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The hearing comes as NATO members prepare to update and rewrite NATO’s Strategic Concept document to help redefine NATO’s mission as it confronts 21st century threats such as terrorism, cyber warfare, nuclear proliferation, and more.


“For sixty years, NATO has been one of the most successful regional security alliances in world history, but like any successful organization, NATO must change and adapt to meet today’s challenges and threats,” said Shaheen. “I worry that we have lost strategic focus in adapting NATO to meet 21st century challenges and that we have yet to answer important long-term questions that will help us make NATO successful for another 60 years. Today’s hearing was an important step in addressing these questions.”


Today’s hearing included four expert witnesses with broad expertise and decades of experience on NATO and Transatlantic relations. Dr. Daniel Hamilton, Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a former senior official at the State Department, spoke of the urgent need to update NATO’s mission.


“The U.S. and its allies must create a new Alliance consensus on the challenges to our security and NATO’s role in meeting them,” said Hamilton in prepared testimony. “Such a consensus is as important today as it was when NATO was born. The security challenges we face have changed, but the need for a common response has not.”


Damon Wilson, the Director of the International Security Program at the Atlantic Council and a former Deputy Director under the NATO Secretary-General, spoke of the importance of updating NATO’s mission, both to overcome current challenges and prepare for future threats.


“Today, again, the Alliance faces a question of common vision and political will as it struggles with how to integrate Europe’s east, how to succeed in Afghanistan, and how to develop the capabilities required to deter or win future conflicts,” said Wilson in prepared testimony.


Today’s hearing included two other national security and NATO experts, Ambassador Robert Hunter, a Senior Advisor at the RAND Corporation and a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and Joseph Wood, a Senior Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs at the White House.


Last month, NATO members commemorated NATO’s 60th anniversary in France and Germany, a celebration attended by President Barack Obama. At the meeting in Strassbourg, France, Obama underlined the importance of renewing NATO’s mission to confront new challenges, saying: “We cannot be content merely to celebrate the achievements of the 20th century, or enjoy the comforts of the 21st century; we must learn from the past to build on its success. We must renew our institutions, our alliances. We must seek the solutions to the challenges of this young century.”


Shaheen is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, which has jurisdiction over NATO, the European Union, Russia, Turkey, Kosovo, NATO efforts in Afghanistan, and energy security issues.