Good morning, Quartz readers.
Article five of NATO’s founding treaty obliges any member of the alliance to come to the defense of another under attack. And yet twice this week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump intimated that, under his administration, the United States might not come to the aid of besieged NATO members that have not satisfactorily covered their fair share of the organization’s expenses.
“You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments … That’s a big thing,”he told The New York Times on July 21. He would repeat the refrain that evening in a speech at the Republican National Convention.
But a Trump presidency isn’t the only threat facing NATO. A recentattempted coup in Turkey, a NATO member state since 1952, forebodes internal factors pushing the organization apart, too. It strikes a “strong negative impact on the ability of the Turkish military to perform its duties across the spectrum of alliance activities,” particularly in the geopolitically critical Middle East, writes former NATO supreme allied commander James Stavridis.
The parallel rise of far-right ultranationalism in Europe is another potential nail in NATO’s coffin. Ascendant parties like the National Front in France, Jobbik in Hungary, and the Freedom Party of Austriaactively sow contempt for NATO and other Western political institutions among some of the continent’s disaffected voters. A similar dynamic helped the “leave” campaign to victory in the UK vote on Brexit, another sign that a trend toward devolution is afoot.
It all spells uncertainty for a cohesive defense of the West—something Russian president Vladimir Putin has both openly and clandestinely sought to exacerbate in recent years, with an eye toward expanding his country’s sphere of influence.
Understandably, tensions are running high in Brussels. “Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO,” secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said, responding to Trump’s remarks. “Two world wars have shown that peace in Europe is also important for the security of the United States.”—Jake Flanagin
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