As the United States looks to confront Russia and counter its aggression, we must not throw away our most powerful weapon: our allies. The NATO alliance, which turns 70 today, remains the most significant foreign policy asset the United States has. Unlike Russia or our other global competitors, we have a roster of friends who are ready to help us defend ourselves and promote stability throughout the world.

Russia has made serious attacks on our world. It has invaded and annexed sovereign territory in Ukraine, used cyberattacks to weaken and disrupt our allies’ societies in Europe, sponsored a coup attempt in Montenegro, murdered civilians in England, propped up a regime in Syria that uses chemical weapons on its own citizens, and interfered in our elections.


But Russia is weak, because it has no NATO of its own. NATO is our great reserve of strength; our ace in the hole. NATO represents not only the largest and most sophisticated fighting force on the planet, but also the strongest economic bloc and most unified force of democratic nations the world has ever seen. NATO is the force securing the global democratic family, giving the United States a ready-made coalition of partners who share our values of openness, freedom, and self-determination. At a time when the Kremlin and others are all too willing to sow distrust and doubt, we must know our strengths and keep our friends close.

Despite the advantages that NATO offers, some in this country and others think NATO has lost its luster. Complaints about the cost of maintaining the alliance and fears that we will be sucked into foreign wars hold some truth.

But while our European and Canadian allies can and should do more to contribute to their own defense, NATO is a force multiplier for the United States, not a burden. In just one example of this strength, our allies host military bases that provide vital support for our troops deployed abroad and enable our armed forces to respond to national security threats anywhere in the world well before they reach our shores.

Perhaps more importantly, the defense that NATO provides has ensured that no major war has broken out in Europe in the seven decades of its existence. We must remember the global horror of World War II before we think about the heavy price we would pay by retreating inward.

We must also remember that the only time that NATO’s Article V mutual defense clause has ever been invoked was when we invoked it. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in our time of need, our allies stood with us and, afterwards, died for us. Our allies have spilled their own blood in our defense, and we owe it to them to show up if they need us in the future.

NATO remains relevant in today’s world, despite changes since 2001. Russian aggression hit Ukraine and Georgia, but our allied presence is ensuring that that stops at NATO’s frontier. NATO aircraft routinely patrol the alliance’s border with Russia, while NATO troops stationed in Europe make sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin knows he would pay an unbearable price to make a move there. NATO centers in Helsinki and Estonia are pioneering new approaches to countering cyber and online disinformation threats from Russia, helping to make our societies safer and more resilient to lies and subversion.

The importance of the alliance is why we have introduced a joint resolution that would prevent any suspension, termination, or withdrawal from NATO unless approved by Congress. Given the large majorities in both the House and Senate that have passed NATO support resolutions, we can think of no better way to celebrate NATO’s 70th anniversary than by passing it into law. We will do everything we can to do just that.

NATO provides the tools to contain a dangerous Russia. It also makes us different. Russia dominates other countries to render them subservient to Moscow. The United States, on the other hand, empowers its allies to provide for their own defense and, yes, even sometimes disagree with Washington. But our connections, born of common history and values, are stronger than anything the Kremlin can put forward.

We must always remember how blessed we are to have so many friends who share our worldview and who fight and die to preserve it.

Gallego represents Arizona’s 7th District and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Stefanik represents New York’s 21st District and is ranking member of the Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. This op-ed is part of the Atlantic Council’s #NATOat70 campaign to inform community leaders, decisionmakers, and the broader population of NATO’s enduring value.