Sanders Wants New NATO with Russia

Jim Young/Reuters

Bernie Sanders wants a new NATO -- and he wants Russia to be part of it.

In a lengthy speech to a jam-packed house at Georgetown University this afternoon, the senator and presidential candidate called for the creation of a new multi-nation organization to fight global extremism.

“We must create a new organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st century -- an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of violent extremism and, importantly, to address the root causes underlying these brutal acts,” he said in the speech. “We must work with our NATO partners, we must work to expand the coalition with Russia and we must work with members of the Arab League.”

The senator’s campaign press secretary, Symone Sanders, confirmed after the speech that the candidate wants Russia and Arab League member nations to be part of the group. She referred to it as “NATO 2.0.”

NATO and Russia have a complicated relationship, as you might imagine, and Russia was strongly opposed when Albania and Croatia joined the alliance in 2009. So suggesting that NATO member states team up in a similar alliance with Russia is, to put it mildly, outside the mainstream. Sanders’ spokeswoman didn’t give additional details on how the alliance would work and whether member nations would commit to defending each other.

The United States joined with other North Atlantic countries in 1949 specifically to contain the Soviet Union’s then-growing regional hegemony. The Soviet Union responded by joining with Eastern European nations to form the now-defunct Warsaw Pact. NATO member nations commit to defending each other’s security; Article 5 of its charter says that an attack on one member nation will be treated as an attack on all of them. It has only been invoked once, after the 9/11 attacks.

In the speech, Sanders also deviated from the remarks as prepared and erroneously referred to NATO as the “North American Treaty Organization.” NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The prepared remarks correctly referred to the group’s full name.

--Betsy Woodruff