Earlier this month the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned 70. And a recent report from the Harvard Kennedy School paints a bleak picture.
The report, titled “NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis,” was co-written by Douglas Lute, who served as an ambassador to NATO from 2013-2017.
The report was strongly critical of President Donald Trump’s “open ambivalence” about NATO’s value to the U.S. “For the 70 years of NATO history, going back to 1949 and President Harry S. Truman, NATO has been able to count on one element of continuity,” said Lute on “Chicago Tonight.” Lute was in town this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
“And that is a strong committed, reliable American presidential leadership. And for the first time we don't have that today.” Lute says that this has eroded the confidence of the other NATO member nations, not only in President Trump, but more broadly in the American commitment to the alliance.
Lute says the president does have a point when he pushes for increased contributions to NATO from other member nations. “European allies have committed to spending 2% of their gross domestic product, 2% of their budgets, on defense,” he says. “And today, only seven allies joined the U.S. in meeting that benchmark. So the European allies do need to step up.”
The report also pointed to challenges from other NATO partners, specifically Poland, Hungary and Turkey, saying they have “undermined their own democracies in varying degrees by suppressing free speech and a free press and limiting the independence of the courts.”
Lute says the problem in these countries relates to the second sentence in the NATO treaty. “It declares that all members of NATO will seek to abide by three key principals: democracy, individual liberty and rule of law,” he said. “And yet, among (those three countries), you see a marked decline in the rating of those democratic values. And this slippage or drift away from the core values is also very corrosive to the alliance.”