MUNICH, GERMANY – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke at the Munich Security Conference Friday. His remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
“Well, good morning, friends.
“Let me start by saying: I am a conservative Republican from America, and I come in peace! Reports about the death of Republican support for strong American leadership in the world have been greatly exaggerated.
“My party’s leaders overwhelmingly support a strong, involved America and a robust trans-Atlantic alliance. Don’t look at Twitter, look at people in power. Look at me and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Look at the top Republicans on the Senate and House committees that handle Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Appropriations, and Intelligence. Look at the former Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, and Director of National Intelligence from the previous Republican Administration.
“Republican leaders are committed to a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. We are committed to helping Ukraine. Not because of vague moral arguments or abstractions like the so-called ‘rules-based international order.’ But rather, because America’s own core national interests are at stake. Because our security is interlinked and our economies are intertwined.
“Popular support for a strong and involved NATO alliance will only be sustained if leaders across the alliance explain clearly and concretely to their own citizens how their nation’s peace and prosperity hangs in the balance.
“This is a case that top Republicans are making in Washington and to the American public on a daily basis. Frankly, some of us find ourselves making this case more often and more plainly than our own President.
“On both sides of the Atlantic, our nations have wasted precious time on ill-considered holidays from history.
“As some have said, the West cashed in the so-called ‘peace dividend,’ but we didn’t actually get the peace.
“And now the bill has come due with interest.
“Beginning in the last American Administration, when my Republican Party controlled the government, we began a concerted effort to rebuild U.S. hard power. We increased defense spending, rebuilt the readiness of our Armed Forces, prioritized investments in lethality, and initiated an overdue modernization of our military.
“Then, under this current Administration, Republicans led the bipartisan push to increase defense spending by $45 billion above the President’s insufficient budget request. We led Congress’s bipartisan work to provide the Pentagon with multi-year contracting authority and strengthen our defense-industrial base.
“These are not the steps you take so America can retreat behind her walls. We are taking these steps so we can continue to lead and defend our interests around the world.
“Now in my view, there is much more America must do to improve our defense capacity:
“We need to streamline the overly bureaucratic weapons procurement process.
“We need to make significant investments — quickly — in critical munitions, transformational capability, and the industrial base to provide it.
“To remain the arsenal of democracy, we must also reform how we sell weapons to allies and partners. Our Foreign Military Sales process should not be so painfully slow or vulnerable to passing political whims.
“These investments and reforms will help America keep supporting Ukraine, rebuild our own stockpiles, and modernize our forces for the even greater challenges to come.
“While America steps up our game, we need our European allies to step up yours as well.
“If I am a true friend, I owe you my candor.
“If you want to help Ukraine win; if you want NATO to emerge stronger from this conflict; and if you want sustained political support in America for our staying engaged and invested in maintaining a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace… then America’s friends on this continent must mirror the resolve and reciprocate the commitment that you hope to see from us.
“So I applaud the Zeitenwende here in Germany. I welcome European commitments to supply Ukraine with weapons and capabilities. I appreciate the rhetorical shift on this continent regarding defense. But as I learned long ago as a U.S. Senator, speeches are not policy.
“It is the concrete investments that Europe makes now and the real reforms that Europe implements now that will determine whether support for Ukraine will be sustainable, and whether our alliance will come out of this crisis stronger in the long-run.
“European countries have not been uniformly generous towards Ukraine.
“Nor have they all made consistent investments in critical defense capabilities.
“Nor have many of the promised investments moved at the speed of relevance.
“Nor is it clear these new financial commitments will prove enduring.
“I have confidence in you. But I also understand that following through will require tough decisions — in Berlin, in Brussels, and beyond. Rhetorical commitments must translate into concrete new capabilities.
“It should not have taken the U.S. Army months to put Stingers and Javelins under contract. But it also should not have taken Germany months to start committing some of your 100-billion-Euro special defense fund. We have to move with the speed of reality, not the sluggishness of bureaucracy.
“I believe the path I have outlined is the only path to success in Ukraine — and the only path to exit this crisis stronger and better prepared for the even greater challenges that await us.
“Whether NATO wanted China as a systemic rival is now irrelevant. It is a reality that China has chosen. And Russia’s menacing threat extends beyond Ukraine.
“So our new chapter of resolve must begin now, but it must not end here.
“And though I’ve focused this morning on our own defense spending, that is not the only way in which NATO can and must leave this crisis stronger than we began it.
“My friends, we need to welcome Finland and Sweden into the NATO alliance, and we need to do it before the Vilnius Summit this summer.
“To sum up —
“This current crisis has shined a spotlight on long-term weaknesses.
“So it must also be the turning point when the West woke up and began to rebuild our strength together.