NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington is surrounded by political chaos

This week’s NATO summit in Washington should be a celebration.

Seventy-five years after its founding, the Alliance is bigger and more relevant than it has been in decades. Transatlantic ties are strong again. Spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, allies have rallied — thanks, in no small part, to American leadership.

But as the city prepares to host dozens of heads of state and government, few are in the mood for a party. The US president who supported the revival of NATO is in serious trouble. Far-right, isolationist politics on both sides of the Atlantic.

At 75 years old, NATO is still going strong. It’s hard not to wonder what the alliance will look like a year from now — whether it’ll be alive for ’76.

Over three days starting Tuesday, President Biden and Western leaders Good years lie ahead for NATO and the post-WWII order.

Allies will recall the history that brought them together and rally around the need to confront a reconstituted Russia. They will outline how they are working to help Ukraine. They will signal that NATO is closely monitoring the growing military partnership between Beijing and Moscow.

Walter E. The formal business of the summit will take place outside the halls of the Washington Convention Center. The plot is less sentimental and focused Biden’s eligibility for office, the possibility of a second Trump presidency and political chaos in France.

Messages from the summit will be gauged to make the case for an alliance to ensure it weathers the political storm intact. Allies will pressurize Significant increase in defense spending and provide more military aid to Ukraine — though the package is smaller than some NATO officials had hoped and the membership won’t make much progress.

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This confusion is obvious “Every European leader,” said Camille Grand, former NATO assistant secretary general and now a distinguished policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, ahead of the summit.

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“They don’t want to make it part of the debate, out of respect for Biden,” he continued, “but it’s on everybody’s mind.”

Everyone’s View of American Politics

Holding NATO’s anniversary summit in Washington carries symbolic weight — but, perhaps, not in the way US officials and diplomats had hoped.

Over the past few years, the Biden administration has worked to rebuild transatlantic ties damaged during the Trump era, renewing ties with allies and showing strong support for NATO.

“America is back; The Atlantic Alliance is back. We are not backing down,” Biden declared at the Munich Security Conference in 2021.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year later proved him right, invigorating the alliance with a new purpose, two new members in Finland and Sweden, and more sophisticated programs for deterrence and security.

But in the months leading up to the Washington summit, Trump shook up the alliance by suggesting he would encourage Russia to attack US allies if they failed to spend enough on their militaries. At the same time, US aid to Ukraine delayed by one month Underscoring the instability of US support.

Allies have responded by trying to “Trump-proof” their plans. NATO this week is formalizing some of the work of the Ukraine Defense Liaison Group, a US-led Ukrainian coordination body to provide Kiev with a stable arsenal under partial NATO control.

The idea is to try to prevent Trump from pulling military aid and training to Ukraine. “If you internationalize it, you Trump-proof it,” said a senior NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss alliance plans.

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Other NATO officials and diplomats described this and other efforts as well-intentioned, but not enough to prevent a staunch Trump alliance or undermining support for Ukraine. Congress approved a measure aimed at preventing any US president from unilaterally withdrawing the US from NATO. But Trump doesn’t need to formally leave the alliance to seriously undermine it; Repeatedly saying you won’t come to a partner’s defense can do that automatically.

In recent days, questions about whether Biden is fit to continue as the Democratic nominee have fueled European anxiety — though most leaders are too polite to say so publicly. Behind the scenes, US officials are trying to calm nerves, stressing that the alliance has survived all manner of political upheavals for more than seven decades. “We cannot stop national elections, that is part of the alliance’s DNA,” said a senior State Department official.

The alliance “has seen everything,” the official said. “It’s not completely unfamiliar.”

European leaders in trouble

Still, the challenges continue to mount. The Washington summit comes amid major political turmoil in France, where a strong showing by Marine Le Pen’s far-right party in European elections last month prompted President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve parliament and call snap legislative elections on June 30 and July 7.

Macron and his centrist political movement will probably be reined in, though early projections suggest French voters have mobilized to block the first far-right government since World War II.

Macron, a longtime proponent of Europe’s need to develop “strategic autonomy” from the United States, sought to position himself in the European response to Russia’s war in Ukraine last year.

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But uncertainty about what’s next — for Macron’s foreign policy and for French politics, more generally — can complicate coalition politics. “A France flapping in the wind would be a problem in peacetime” wrote Columnist Sylvie Kauffmann in the French daily Le Monde last week. “But it will be even more so in the face of Russian power at war, which will redouble its aggression and openly welcome the turmoil of Western democracies.”

Germany, another powerful NATO ally, has Chancellor Olaf Scholz Also in trouble, beset by economic challenges, a shaky coalition and the far right. Scholz said At a dinner party last week, he fretted over the situation in France and texted Macron daily. According to Spiegel. “We are discussing the situation, which is really depressing,” he said.

Ukraine’s future is at stake

All of this upheaval is particularly bad news for Ukraine, whose immediate survival and long-term prospects depend, in part, on the fate of the alliance.

At last year’s summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky angered allies with a fiery tweet about his lack of an invitation to join NATO. This year, he will walk away from the summit — with a promise of lasting support and few takeaways — a new NATO integration for Ukraine, military aid next year and a promise of some sort of “bridge” to membership.

Russian advances in eastern Ukraine and the Kargiv Bumming, he is unlikely to be satisfied. This was less than he expected, and certainly, less than many believed he should win the war.

Kate Brady in Berlin contributed to this report.

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