Pretty much no one in the Western alliance is looking forward to the next few days.
NATO heads of state are due to meet Wednesday in Brussels beneath the disinterested gaze of President Donald Trump before he jets off to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. In between, British Prime Minister Theresa May — who faces a pending collision with the brick wall of Brexit — meets first with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then with Trump herself. It’s a rapid-fire series of what would usually be staid diplomatic photo-ops that could, in this iteration, seriously disrupt the international order that has made the United States a global superpower since the end of World War II.
While the president and other Republican envoys make reassuring entreaties to the Kremlin, Trump continues to view himself as the disruptor of NATO. In the weeks leading up to the NATO summit, the president again berated America’s allies for their defense spending. To push back, supporters of the transatlantic framework that is the architecture of American power in the world are on an information blitz, heralding increased defense spending across the alliance.
All this has been accompanied by the usual cycle of pre-summit reports about NATO’s defensive vulnerabilities — including the choke point of the Suwalki Gap between Poland and Lithuania. And, as usual, it’s the allies to the north of that gap that are trying to stay focused on what matters most: the fundamental transformation of the alliance that is needed. [Continue reading…]