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Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA11): “As NATO commemorates its 75th anniversary, Allied leaders must recognize that the next front for NATO evolution will be in the battle between democracy and authoritarianism”

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From Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA11)’s office:

Connolly to Address Heads of State at NATO Summit

Washington, DC – Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, will address NATO’s Heads of State and Government at their Summit meeting in Washington, DC today, July 10, 2024. Connolly will speak at 1:00PM at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The Assembly’s President is traditionally invited to address NATO Summits to present the views of Allied legislators on the key issues affecting the Alliance. Connolly previously addressed the NATO Summit in June 2022. This year’s Summit is expected to focus on support for Ukraine and NATO’s strengthened deterrence and defense and will mark the Alliance’s 75th anniversary.

“As NATO commemorates its 75th anniversary, Allied leaders must recognize that the next front for NATO evolution will be in the battle between democracy and authoritarianism,” Connolly said. “We must respond to this existential threat. As parliamentarians, as guardians of democracy. But also as members of NATO. After 75 years, NATO needs concrete architecture, at its Headquarters, dedicated to the propoundment and defense of democracy.”

Connolly’s remarks, as prepared, are below:

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA)

President, NATO Parliamentary Assembly

Excellencies, Dear Friends, 

For 70 years, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has lifted the voice of Allied Parliaments.

As representatives of the expressed democratic will of our people, we have embodied the principles enshrined in the Preamble and in Article 2 of the Washington Treaty that NATO is an Alliance based on shared democratic values. 

Today, democracy faces an historic test. 

If you look at the 1930s, we democracies failed every test. 

Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia. Failed. 

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Failed. 

The collapse of the League of Nations. Failed. 

The Spanish Civil War and Franco. Failed. 

We failed in the reoccupation of the Rhineland, in the Sudetenland, and in Czechoslovakia. 

And that led to the cataclysm of 1939-1945. 

The difference between the 1930s and now, however, is NATO. 

NATO is a line Putin dare not cross. 

Even in his sociopathic depravity, he knows Article V is real. 

In Ukraine, NATO has responded with a demonstration of unity and resolve capable of redefining the future of the Alliance, if we can bring ourselves to admit an uncomfortable truth: that the fight for democracy in the 21st century is an existential one and NATO is the essential party to the conflict. 

Democracy is the underlying raison d’être of who we are and it must permeate everything we do. 

We are far more than a military alliance that does not like Russia. 

NATO is, it must be, the indispensable bulwark for democracy. 

And this bulwark is formidable. 

Democracies must gird ourselves for a fight. 

The alternative is building, every day, the intellectual and operational framework to undermine democracies through cyberattacks, disinformation assaults, and propaganda campaigns. 

Which is why we must meet their challenge and operationalize our own commitment to our founding democratic values by establishing concrete architecture at NATO Headquarters dedicated to democratic resilience. 

The time has come to enshrine our commitment, after 75 years, to create a democratic resilience center to propound, defend, advocate, and be a resource for members, partners, and aspirants. 

This is the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s top recommendation and request to all of you today. 

Fortunately, the predicate for such a proposal is right there in our charter. 

And the Strategic Concept you adopted two years ago in Madrid rededicates the Alliance to our founding democratic values. 

Now we must act on that commitment. 

Ukraine is our test. 

The solidarity we have mustered in the face of Putin’s challenge gives lie to the myth that we are tired and obsolete. 

Think back 75 years ago. 

Europe was on its knees. The future looked very dark.  

Yet this Alliance, formed in that chaos and debris, like a phoenix rising from those ashes, created something spectacular. 

It created a free and successful Western Europe, and it stood up to Soviet challenges. 

Today, those freedoms and that success have expanded across all of Europe, liberated from the yoke of authoritarianism. 

NATO met the test of its time, and it met the test of endurance. 

We showed the world a shining example of what democracy, collective democracy, could do and would do. 

We need to meet that test again today by marrying the Alliance’s commitment to democracy, to the courage and bravery of the people of Ukraine who are fighting and dying every day for their right to join our ranks as members of the democratic family.

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