What is left of NATO and the transatlantic order after US President Donald Trump’s tumultuous week in Brussels, the United Kingdom and Helsinki, where he defended Russian President Vladimir Putin against accusations of cyber warfare by America’s own intelligence agencies?
Watching events unfold through rose-tinted glasses, one might think that the West’s most important strategic alliance is more or less okay, or even growing stronger. In fact, NATO is in peril, and its fate now lies in Trump’s contemptuous hands.
Prior to and during the NATO summit, there was much hand-wringing over member states’ military spending as a share of GDP. Each member is expected to increase its spending to 2% of GDP by 2024, but Trump seems to think that this already should have been done. And at the summit last week, he suddenly called for a new target of 4% of GDP—which is more than even the United States spends.
To be sure, over the past few decades, NATO’s primary focus was on peacekeeping operations in distant places, rather than on its core function of territorial defence. For most European member states, the peace dividend from the alliance’s operations justified cuts in domestic military spending.
Carl Bildt is a former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden.