February 18, 2024

Sen. Tammy Duckworth visits Sweden to deliver message that NATO allies can continue to count on the U.S.

Sweden is poised to join NATO at a time when former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, has encouraged Russia to attack members of the alliance.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times


WASHINGTON — Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., is in Sweden, where she is meeting with Swedish defense and foreign affairs officials as the nation is poised to join NATO at a time when the GOP presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, seeking another White House term, is encouraging Vladimir Putin to attack members of the alliance.

Duckworth traveled to Sweden over the weekend — and will continue on to the Netherlands later this week — with two missions on the agenda. She is a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and is in Europe discussing national security issues as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues. And, as a member of the Commerce Committee, she is drumming up overseas business for Illinois.

Sweden is on a path to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“I’ll be talking about the NATO alliance and reassuring our soon-to-be-ally Sweden in terms of reaffirming [the] United States’ ironclad commitment to NATO despite what Trump has been saying,” Duckworth told the Sun-Times.

The central element in the treaty — referred to as Article 5 — is that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.

When Trump was president, he threatened to have the U.S. quit NATO as he focused not on the benefit of the mutual aid pact, but on the issue that not all NATO members met spending guidelines for their defense forces. NATO does not — as Trump incorrectly says — send bills to members. Rather, NATO’s target is for member countries to spend at least 2% of their gross national product on defense, and most do not.

Trump has said that he once told an unnamed head of state who asked what would happen to his country if it was not paid up and then invaded by Russia: “I will not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.” The remark sent shockwaves through U.S. allies.

In Stockholm, Duckworth has planned meetings with Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström and Swedish Minister for Defense Pål Jonson. Later this week she meets with Netherlands Ministry of Defense Director General of Policy Koen Davidse.

On Monday, Duckworth will speak at Norrmalmstorg square in Stockholm, where participants in what is known as the “Monday Movement” are gathering. This grassroots movement started with support of the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — when they were seeking freedom from Soviet rule.

Duckworth is appearing to show her support for Ukraine as it remains unclear whether Congress wlll approve more aid to Ukraine.

I asked Duckworth about how her message regarding the “ironclad” U.S. commitment to NATO will be received, given that there is a realistic potential of Trump becoming president again.

Duckworth replied that the message is: “We have three branches of government in the United States, and even if Donald Trump is elected, he doesn’t make all the decisions for the nation, and there are those of us here in the legislative branch who will counter and oppose his attempts to diminish America’s commitment to NATO.”

On the business front, with Illinois investing millions in the electronic vehicle industry, in Sweden Duckworth will tour Northvolt, Europe’s largest battery and battery recycling plant, and will take part in a roundtable with American Chambers of Commerce in Sweden and the Netherlands, to drum up investments in Illinois companies. She is making a specific pitch for a Netherlands pallet company, CSi Palletising, to expand its U.S. operations in Illinois.

By:  Lynn Sweet