Biden heralds 75th anniversary of NATO’s founding

White House — President Joe Biden welcomed NATO’s 75th anniversary Thursday, as the security alliance hosted new member Sweden for the first time at a major meeting — and as Ukraine eagerly hopes for an invitation to join the group at an upcoming Washington summit. 

In a statement, Biden welcomed the recent addition of new members Finland and Sweden, saying “we must choose to protect this progress and build on it.” 

“This is the greatest military alliance in the history of the world,” Biden said. “But it didn’t happen by accident, nor was it inevitable. Generation after generation, the United States and our fellow Allies have chosen to come together to stand up for freedom and push back against aggression — knowing we are stronger, and the world is safer, when we do.” 

Biden’s Democratic allies agreed. 

“Despite [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s attempts to splinter our alliance with his war against Ukraine, the transatlantic partnership is more united than ever before, thanks to the determined leadership of Joe Biden,” said former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “On this monumental anniversary, we reaffirm that America’s commitment to NATO remains bipartisan and ironclad — and that we will never waver in our defense of democracy.” 

NATO allies have been increasingly unnerved by the prospect of former Republican President Donald Trump returning to the White House if he defeats Biden in the November 5 U.S. presidential election. 

As president, Trump frequently complained that numerous NATO countries were not meeting NATO’s recommendation that they spend 2% of their country’s economic output on defense. 

In February, at a campaign rally, Trump recounted what he said was a conversation he had when he was the U.S. leader with the “president of a big country.” 

“Well sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia — will you protect us?” Trump quoted the unnamed leader as saying. 

“I said: ‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent.’

He said: ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’

‘No, I would not protect you.,” said Trump. “In fact, I would encourage them [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay.'”

The NATO countries’ pledge to defend each other has been invoked only once, when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the U.S. in 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. 

The U.S. and its allies responded with a two-decade fight against the militants’ training sites and encampments in Afghanistan although Taliban rulers remained in power as Biden pulled out the last U.S. troops in 2021. 

Some analysts argue that the alliance remains relevant, citing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. 

“Nearly a billion people sleep more soundly at night under NATO’s protective umbrella,” said Robert Benson, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, in a message sent to VOA. 

“Yet a small but vocal minority views the alliance as a relic of the past, an albatross, or a distraction — all this in a world where Russian imperial ambition has once again threatened international peace and security,” he said. “The United States must continue to support Ukraine and to strengthen NATO, not out of charity or moral obligation, but because it makes us safer here at home.” 

Sean Monaghan, a foreign affairs analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told VOA that he does not expect NATO to offer Ukraine a formal invitation to join the military alliance when it holds its 75th anniversary summit in Washington in July.

The allies agreed last year at NATO’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, not to invite Ukraine until its war with Russia has ended. 

“When the time is right,” Monaghan said, “NATO allies and Ukraine will want to move quickly from invitation to membership to avoid a drawn-out period where Ukraine is at risk of coercion but not protected” by the NATO treaty provision that all countries must defend each other if they are attacked. 

“The summit is likely to focus on boosting long-term support for Ukraine, including through NATO auspices,” Monaghan said. 

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