NATO once feared the spectre of Soviet divisions rolling through the Fulda Gap. Military and civilian leaders spent restless nights worrying about Russia’s nuclear arsenal, its bloody-minded intelligence services, and its endless desire to erode the leadership, morale, and capabilities of the West. Today, they fear Donald Trump is about to throw them to the Russian wolves out of pique, spite, and a curious loyalty to Vladimir Putin.
For two generations the annual NATO summit had a particular and vital purpose. They began as careful, crafted exercises designed to develop the capacity and resolve of the West to stand against Soviet aggression, and then subsequently evolved as a check against post-Soviet misbehaviour and instability. These NATO summits were the public face of a strategic alliance built initially from necessity, then for mutual security and benefit. In the age of terror, the NATO alliance has stood together to face new threats as the bloody hand of twisted Islamic radicalism touched both sides of the Atlantic.
America has always had differences with our allies, on matters both meaningful and trivial, but in the past, those differences were mainly over technicalities, margins, and details. Western institutions like NATO bring together nations who share a broad set of Western values that, to some, may seem quaint today: a robust defence of free markets, individual liberty, and human rights. We don’t have to agree on everything, because we agree on the fundamental things.