Pelosi and McConnell just invited the NATO secretary-general, a subject of Trump's ire, to a rare honour usually reserved for high-ranking dignitaries like Pope Francis

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty ImagesNATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invited NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint meeting of Congress.
  • April 4 will mark the 70th anniversary of NATO.
  • Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump have often been at odds with one another on major policy positions regarding NATO.

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invited NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint meeting of Congress in April to commemorate NATO’s 70th anniversary.

Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump have butted heads over the past two years on key differences about the role of the global alliance and the behaviour of fellow member states.

Read more: Top Democrats want the White House to hand over information about Trump’s communications with Putin

“Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi have agreed to invite Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint session of Congress this spring,” a spokesperson for McConnell told The Washington Post. “We will have additional details of the Secretary-General’s speech in the weeks to come.”

Pelosi previously met with Stoltenberg during a February trip to the Munich Security Conference.

“During this critical time for the United States, NATO and the European Union, the US Congress and the American people look forward to your message of friendship and partnership, as we work together to strengthen our critical alliance and advance a future of peace around the world,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg, along with NATO, has often been on the receiving end of Trump’s criticisms over the past two years.

Trump has pushed partner nations to chip in more money for defences to strengthen NATO. Trump has asked countries such as Germany and Norway to beef up their national-security budgets and lamented the “growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised.”

“NATO has not treated us fairly, but I think we’ll work something out,” Trump said before departing for a 2018 NATO summit in Brussels. “We pay far too much, and they pay far too little.”

Trump has also taken swipes at NATO in other ways. After the 2018 summit, he travelled to Helsinki to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump praised the meeting with Putin

“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!”

Joint meetings of Congress are rare honours for special guests to speak to both the House and the Senate at the same time. Previous high-profile addresses to Congress in the past few years have included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Pope Francis.

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