WASHINGTON ― The Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s pick for ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, by a voice vote Thursday after Sen. Josh Hawley removed his objection to the nomination.
Hawley, R-Mo., said he had lifted his procedural hold on Smith after she sent him a letter agreeing to seek an increase of NATO’s defense spending target. Member nations have agreed to spend a minimum of 2% of their gross domestic products on defense.
“I wanted to get from her a sense that ... she would really be a voice with our allies in NATO to say that part of making sure this alliance is relevant and revitalized for the next century is we need to look beyond 2%,” Hawley told Defense News. “We finally got there and she was willing to say that.”
Politico first reported Hawley’s move.
Hawley, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was under increasing pressure amid ratcheting tension between Russia and the West. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called on Moscow to explain its troop buildup near Ukraine ― another example of its troubling military moves.
Smith served as as deputy national security advisor to then-Vice President Biden after she’d been the director of European and NATO policy at the Pentagon. Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced Smith’s nomination to the Senate calendar on Oct. 19.
Hawley has said he is blockading nominees to leadership positions at the Pentagon and the State Department. He has said he would relent if Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan resign over their handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.