Nov 27, 2022

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly just finished its fall session in Madrid. For those not familiar with the NPA, it is an assembly of parliamentarians, MPs, US congressmen, and other politicians from NATO and partner nations, as well as interested observers (like me) who have an interest in supporting NATO. They meet twice a year to discuss world events and respective national policies as they relate to the Alliance. The keynote was delivered by Secretary General Stoltenberg, who also held a long Q&A session; Pres Zelenskiy also addressed the Assembly by VTC. Not surprisingly, the principle topic was Russia and the war in Ukraine. The various sub-committees also debate and draft formal resolutions to be adopted. Participants span the democratic political spectrum from Socialists to Liberals to Conservatives (all of whom work surprisingly well together).


While the NPA has no formal authority, the fact that it is made up of sitting parliamentarians gives one a good idea of which way political ‘winds’ are blowing in various NATO nations, and what the concerns are of politicians who represent their constituencies.


My observation from the proceedings was that there is a very strong commitment to continuing to support Ukraine to a victory ‘as long as it takes’, and there was universal condemnation of Russia as an aggressor in an unjustified, unprovoked, and especially brutal war which systemically violated both the LOAC and human rights, etc.  No speaker arose and suggested that ‘now is the time for negotiations’, and/or that Ukraine should seek to consolidate only its current position/gains and sue for a peace that left Russia keeping any of its ill-gotten gains.


Amongst the contents of the various resolutions adopted / topics discussed:


— Calls for designation of Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and practitioner of State Terrorism.


— Calls for the establishment of a Special International Tribunal to hold Russia fully accountable for its putative war crimes, and crimes against humanity, etc., to include not only those who actually committed atrocities, but those in leadership who approved and organized them. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine also addressed the Assembly, detailing the internationally-assisted efforts to fully document all war crimes, crimes against civilians, destruction of civilian property, etc. (currently, 47,000 cases and counting…) to have legally-defensible arguments and claims.


— Rejection of any settlement in which Russia gained through its use of brutal force. Several speakers, including the Secretary General, noted that Russia cannot gain anything from its war in Ukraine, as this would not only serve Russian interests, but send a wider message to any aggressor regime that unjustified use of force and violence can be rewarded.


— Support for full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Many noted that the war actually started in 2014, and thus restoration included not only territories occupied since 24 Feb of this year, but Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea. I did not hear any objections to including the latter, or saving it for ‘later’, etc.


— Commitment to assist in rebuilding/restoring Ukraine, post-conflict. The use of frozen Russian assets was also discussed in this respect, with the need to first establish (through the Special Tribunal or other international legal mechanism) the needed legal basis.


— Calls for NATO and Partner nations to keep and increase supplying both military and humanitarian/financial aid to Ukraine. The Secretary General noted that neither NATO nor the EU were direct parties to the conflict, but strongly encouraged the current practice of individual NATO/Partner nations of supplying the means for Ukraine to continue the struggle. It was noted that the provision of military assistance was in keeping with enabling Ukraine’s legitimate right to defend itself. Air Defense was a specific area many highlighted as a priority need.


— A strong commitment to maintaining unity amongst NATO Allies and Partners (and some expression of surprise and self-congratulation that, nine months into the conflict, we have largely succeeded in doing so). Many added that ‘conflict fatigue’ must continue to be avoided, and was not acceptable.


— There was a clear agreement that the democratic West has faced a watershed with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and there can be no ‘going back’ to prior business and accommodations with the Putin regime.


— Many stressed the need for energy and critical resource independence from authoritarian regimes. Russia was condemned from weaponizing energy and economic blackmail. Others included the over-dependence on China for semi-conductor chips and other critical resources.


— Of note was the need expressed  by many to do better at explaining to our populations why it was important – that indeed there was no other acceptable option – to hold the line against Putin’s aggression, despite the fact that there will be some economic pain, especially in Europe. Better the cost we must feel now, than a much larger one later.


The Assembly discussed many other topics – cyber security; countering Russian (and Chinese) false narrative and propaganda efforts aimed at the West; NATO’s own increases in its defense posture (both in terms of forward deployments, better air defense, increased readiness of forces, and general continued commitment to keep increasing defense spending and procurement; numerous calls for quick ratification of Finland and Sweden’s full accession to NATO; climate change; the Arctic/High North; Terrorism and the threats from the South, etc., etc. However, I wanted to share with this group some of the highlights and my general observations, especially as they relate to Ukraine.


Overall, there seemed to be remarkable agreement amongst the diverse collection of politicians present at the NPA (I also spoke to many privately) and real determination to continue to remain united in support for Ukraine and unqualified condemnation of Putin’s aggression and need to

stop it. How that will ultimately play out remains to be seen, but I am at least not leaving Madrid tomorrow discouraged with what I heard.