San Diego Union-Tribune: Public, Congress wisely value alliance as NATO turns 70


San Diego Union-Tribune



The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th birthday on Thursday should be marked by calls to reject the revisionist history of President Donald Trump, who thinks NATO nations rip off the U.S. while relying on its military might. It’s fair to criticize these nations for not meeting goals on upgrading their militaries. But America has benefited immensely from a stable world built on NATO’s principles of mutual defense and promoting democracy. This was integral to the U.S. victory in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991.

Fearful of the expansionist communist power of the Soviet Union after it seized de facto control of parts of Eastern Europe, the United States, Canada and 10 European nations founded NATO on April 4, 1949. Many more nations would later join. NATO was also seen as a barrier to the revival of the extreme nationalism that led two world wars to start in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. American involvement was a sharp break with the U.S. history of isolationism.

The nature of the threat faced by NATO and by Western democracies is different now than 1949. Authoritarian China — with its giant economy, technological gains, expanding military, and its courting and bullying of nations across the globe — is an ominous threat. After a quiet period, Russia has morphed into one of the planet’s most mendacious, anti-democratic regimes. In several nations, militant nationalism fueled by economic dissatisfaction and racial and ethic resentment is again a menace to democracy. It’s clear NATO is as needed as ever.

The welcome news is that Americans grasp this, even if the president does not. A Gallup poll released last month showed 77 percent of Americans support the U.S. remaining in NATO, which got far higher marks than the United Nations. Most U.S. leaders deeply value NATO, which is why its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, was invited to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

This is a sign of the stability that international alliances bring the world. Happy birthday, NATO.

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San Diego Union-Tribune

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