Republican and Democratic leaders will invite NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address Congress next month, offering a rare honor to the head of an organization often derided by President Donald Trump.
The party leaders will ask Stoltenberg to speak to a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate in April as the alliance celebrates its 70th anniversary, congressional aides said on Monday.
Trump has questioned the value to Washington of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and many lawmakers see honoring Stoltenberg as a chance to reaffirm the American commitment to the alliance.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi consulted the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer as she planned the invitation. All support the idea, aides said.
“Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi have agreed to invite Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint session of Congress this spring. We will have additional details of the Secretary General’s speech in the weeks to come,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said in an emailed statement.
In February, Pelosi led a delegation of U.S. lawmakers to Brussels, where they sought to reassure European allies that differences over Trump’s policies were mere “family squabbles” and transatlantic ties remained strong.
The Democratic House Speaker met with NATO’s leadership during that visit.
The European Union and United States have traditionally been the closest of allies, also working together through NATO.
Trump, however, has called NATO obsolete and lambasted his European peers for not spending enough on defense, raising doubts among many in Europe about his commitment to the Western military alliance and Europe’s broader security.
Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans see Stoltenberg’s speech as an opportunity for the NATO leader to address U.S. concerns such as Trump’s desire for European governments to raise defense spending to 2 percent of economic output, an alliance goal.
The opportunity to address a joint meeting of Congress is one of the highest honors Washington affords foreign dignitaries. There have been 120 such addresses since the first, by King David Kalakaua of Hawaii in 1874.
The last was by French President Emmanuel Macron in April 2018.