Ellison: NATO Focuses on Old Threats, Ignores New Threats

As thousands of protestors massed in Chicago to protest the NATO summit, U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (Minnesota) agreed with some of the demonstrators’ claims, but disagreed with others.

“I do agree we’re spending too much on the military, but I believe in the military,” said Ellison, who co-chairs the House of Representatives’ Progressive Caucus. “But I believe we have too many investments in Cold War-era weapons. We don’t need all that nuclear stuff. We don’t need to have 174 bases. We don’t need to protect Europe. We don’t need to protect Japan. Let’s move toward a partnership instead of us monopolizing things. We spend more than the next 14 countries combined.”

Last week Ellison voted against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), citing its misplaced priorities and excessive spending. The NDAA provides $88.5 billion for the Afghanistan War and delays the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The bill also authorizes several billion more in defense spending than the President and the Joint Chiefs requested. An East Coast missile defense system that the Pentagon did not request is included, as well as more spending for the F-35B fighter jet that has been plagued with delays and cost overruns.

Time to focus on Syria

“The U.S. has diminished Al Qaeda’s strength so it is time to decrease our military presence in Afghanistan and bring our troops home as soon as safely possible,” said Ellison. “We should not continue wasteful spending on a defense strategy that does not meet 21st-century threats. Our security spending priorities must match modern threats.”

Asked what NATO’s role should be today, Ellison invoked the crisis in Syria.

“We need to pay attention to new security threats, but our investments are in old security threats. I hope NATO does step forward and help the people of Syria. We shouldn’t attack the Assad regime, but we should have a safe zone in Turkey, who’s willing. And we need to be able to protect the safe zone if the Assad regime attacks the safe zone. I think it should be an international thing. It’s up to the NATO countries to stand in solidarity with the people of Syria who want a democracy.”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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