EXCLUSIVE: Sen Josh Hawley Doubles Down on NATO Vote, Calls for Europe to Scale Back Reliance on America

US Senator Josh Hawley
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) is bucking critics and calling for Europe’s NATO members scale back reliance on America — including by increasing their defense spending and growing their militaries — following his lone vote Wednesday opposing growing the alliance to include Finland and Sweden.

Hawley, in an interview with Breitbart News, said America’s current NATO arrangement is spreading resources too thin and in a region that is not of primary national security concern — calling the European theatre a “big distraction from what our principle overseas challenge is, which is China.”

“We need to renegotiate the 2% pledge. It needs to go up to two and a half, at least,” Hawley told Breitbart News, referring to the requirement that NATO members pledge 2% of their GDP to defense spending, which most member countries have not fulfilled. “And I think we also need to require them to start fielding more manpower and bigger armies.”

“I’m fine with NATO, if they will do their job, which is they need to take first responsibility for Europe so that we can focus on where we need to focus overseas, which is Asia,” the Senator added.

Ahead of the Senate vote this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said there was no “defensible excuse” to vote “no” on the NATO expansion, according to Politico.

Hawley told Breitbart News that he does not believe expanding NATO is in the national security interest of the United States, and that upping American commitments in Europe puts the US in greater danger in Asia. He added that he has yet to hear “any substantive arguments as to why this is actually good for the United States,” however, it is worth noting that the Senator voted to add North Macedonia to the alliance in recent years.

“I set out my view as to why this is not good for the United States, and as to why, frankly, it’s going to put us in greater danger in Asia. And so far, I haven’t heard a single person respond to that substantively, not one,” Hawley told Breitbart News in response to McConnell’s remark.

“I look forward to hearing the arguments as to why this actually puts us in a better position to defend ourselves against Chinese imperialism, to defend our economy, to defend our workers, to defend ourselves militarily; maybe there’s an argument out there but I haven’t heard it. So, people can name call all they want, but I have yet to hear any substantive arguments as to why this actually is good for the United States,” Hawley continued.

McConnell isn’t the only Republican in the Senate to chide Hawley for his stance. Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR) called the decision “strange,” and Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Hawley “mistaken.”

“We don’t beat China by retreating from the rest of the world. We beat China by standing with our allies against our enemies,” Cruz said, according to Politico.

Asked to respond to that criticism, Hawley reiterated that commitments in Europe do not provide a solution or pertain to the more pressing challenge for America in East Asia.

“Beijing doesn’t care how much we do in Europe, they don’t care how much money we spend in Europe, they don’t care how many security commitments we make in Europe. The only thing that matters to Beijing is: can we stop them? If they want to invade Taiwan? Can we stop them if they want to kick us out of the Pacific? That’s it. That’s all that matters, all the rest of it is talk,” Hawley told Breitbart News in response to his colleague from Texas.

The Senator added that he does not believe his fellow lawmakers are fully aware of the level of resources necessary to secure the Pacific, and that the United States is not in a position to confront China with its current commitments in other regions. He emphasized that the threat from China must be at the top of American defense priorities, not expanding military commitments in Europe.

“The problem is we are not in a position to stop them right now, and I think that’s what people aren’t really grappling with, we are in big trouble right now in the Pacific,” Hawley told Breitbart News.

“We’re a Pacific nation — we’ve got a state in the Pacific, Hawaii, but also our trade routes are there, much of our economy is dependent on being able to sell our goods, on fair terms. And what China wants to do is dominate the whole Pacific, kick us out of it, and then dictate to us how our economy is going to go, what goods we’re going to make in this country, what technology we’re going to use and what we’re going to say, ultimately, and we are not in a position right now to stop that, and we’ve got to get there. And I just think all the rest of this is just hot air,” Hawley continued.

“We can’t do a whole bunch more in Europe, and fight these endless wars in the Middle East, and protect ourselves from China. Like, we just can’t do all that stuff, we have to actually have priorities. And right now, China needs to be our priority,” the Missouri Senator told Breitbart News.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) poses with an official delegation from Finland and Sweden in his office at the U.S. Capitol Building on August 03, 2022 in Washington, DC, prior to the U.S. Senate vote on ratifying the two countries membership to NATO. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty)

“The nation building the Mideast was always a mistake. What we’re doing that right now in Europe, I think, is a mistake. And I appear to be alone in thinking that we really have to prioritize. I think there’s just this sense that, ‘oh, well, it’ll all work out somehow in the end,’ and it’s only going to work out well in the end if we make the tough choices right now.”

Looking ahead at a possible Republican majority in the Senate, Hawley outlined a number of ways he believes the upper chamber can be productive in addressing pressing threats to national security, including strengthening tariffs against China and hardening defenses in the Pacific.

“We could be devoting a lot more resources, moving them out of the Middle East and out of Europe, to the Asia Pacific; we could be doing things like strengthening the tariffs against China; we could be getting the kind of munitions and manpower we need in the Pacific, in order to deter China. The whole the whole point of this is we don’t want to have a war with China, we want to prevent a war and we want to prevent them from exercising power over us. And the way we do that is we show strength in the Pacific and we deter them, but the time to do that is right now,” Hawley said.

Emma-Jo Morris is the Politics Editor at Breitbart News. Email her at  or follow her on Twitter.

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