With 2024 approaching, Hawley takes a Trumpian turn to clip NATO.
As the GOPs highest-profile opponent of NATO enlargement, the Missouri Republican is taking a controversial MAGA stance on Americas national security.
The Missouri Republican staked out MAGA turf earlier this week by coming out against a joint effort by Finland and Sweden to join NATO — a vote that could end with him standing alone in the “no” camp. Hawley’s move puts him at odds with fellow GOP senators considered possible 2024 presidential contenders, as party leaders work feverishly to stamp out Trump’s influence on foreign policy within their ranks.
Hawley has worked for months to distinguish himself from the Republican pack on national security, beginning with his blockade of Pentagon nominees in protest of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and his opposition to a $40 billion Ukraine aid package. Opposing an expansion of the most successful military alliance in world history as it works to counter Russia’s war in Ukraine, however, is a particularly bold play for the GOP base that has cheered Trump’s critiques of NATO.
President Donald Trump, left, speaks to Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley during a campaign rally in November 2018 in Columbia, Mo.
Charlie Riedel/AP Photo
“I have been in the very distinct minority on the Ukraine [aid] package,” Hawley said in a brief interview. “I don’t think this is qualitatively different than that.”
In a defiant op-ed, the freshman senator said he plans to oppose the two countries’ bids to join the alliance because he believes the U.S. should be prioritizing the myriad threats emanating from China rather than expanding its security commitments in Europe. He has long called for reducing U.S. troop levels in Europe in favor of an Asia-focused strategy.
With the Senate set to vote on Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO as soon as Wednesday, Hawley’s fellow Republicans didn’t waste time poking holes in his argument.
“I think it’s mistaken,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been open about his own White House aspirations, said in an interview. “We don’t beat China by retreating from the rest of the world. We beat China by standing with our allies against our enemies.”
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