NATO is Falling Apart - The Threat Is Within NATO
An alliance built on democratic ideals is seeing the rise of strongmen in its midst.
- From Budapest to Warsaw to Ankara, a new generation of strongmen within the alliance seeks to govern in a manner closer to that of Putin
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Rob Berschinski | Apr 7, 2018 - TheAtlantic.com
Speaking days before an election most observers thought him sure to win, a long-serving Eurasian strongman railed against human rights, malevolent western powers, and rapacious "international speculators." If delivered a fourth term in office, he vowed, vengeance against enemies of the state would be swift. His ruling party would achieve "satisfaction" against its adversaries, both foreign and domestic, he pledged in language that sounded both threatening and heartfelt.
This could easily have been Vladimir Putin, but it wasn't. It was the leader of an American treaty ally. Under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who faces an election this weekend, Hungary has become an increasingly autocratic and pro-Russian state—and it's one that also happens to be in NATO.
In addition to the threat of Russian adventurism, NATO is facing a new menace, and the enemy is within. The alliance of 29 states bound by a pledge of collective defense has, particularly since the conclusion of the Cold War, defined itself by a set of common values and a membership composed of human rights-respecting democracies. The accuracy of this self-conception preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall was at times debatable. Today, it may be falling apart.
From Budapest to Warsaw to Ankara, a new generation of strongmen within the alliance seeks to govern in a manner closer to that of Putin than to that of the democratic reformers of the immediate post-Cold War epoch. Which raises the question of whether an alliance, designed to contain the Soviet Union and ostensibly organized around democratic ideals, can endure attacks on the rule of law by a growing subset of its members.
"Russia aims to weaken U.S. influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners," says the Trump administration's 2017 National Security Strategy. The line, while accurate, reflects poorly on the strategy's ostensible author, given that among other things it implicitly refers to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump. Left unwritten is that Russia's goal of creating distance between the United States and its allies is part of what attracted it to Trump in the first place. As a candidate, Trump called nato "obsolete." As president, he initially declined to reaffirm America's commitment to the alliance's mutual defense provision, before begrudgingly reversing course at the insistence of his advisers.