AS NATO TURNS 70, ITS BIGGEST CHALLENGE COMES FROM WITHIN

AS NATO TURNS 70, ITS BIGGEST CHALLENGE COMES FROM WITHIN

NATO turns 70 years old this week. To mark the event, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will deliver a speech in front of a joint session of Congress later today. It's the first such speech by a NATO chief, and it comes as the trans-Atlantic military alliance – which has already outlived the Soviet Union by nearly three decades – faces what may be its toughest challenge yet.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has been dogged by a crisis of purpose. What should its role be after the disappearance of its main foe? Protecting former Soviet states from Russia? Combatting terrorism? Fighting new battles in cyberspace?

But recently the alliance has been wrestling with an even more fundamental challenge: fading support from the United States, its most important member. Mr. Stoltenberg is trying to use his trip to Washington to boost American engagement.

Here are his three main audiences and what he hopes to accomplish with each:


President Trump has spent two years brow-beating fellow NATO members over military spending – part of a broader pushback against what he sees as raw deals for the US around the world. He's also sparked serious concern among its members by suggesting the US might reconsider its obligations under NATO's collective defense provision, which holds that an attack on one member is an attack on all. "We have no idea what Trump would do in a crisis," Poland's former foreign minister quipped after the US president's summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last year. That's truly unprecedented.

Stoltenberg highlighted other NATO members' progress on "burden sharing" during a meeting with the US president on Tuesday. His speech today will be another opportunity to explain how America's allies are working to address the president's concerns.

Congress still overwhelmingly backs NATO. In January, the House voted 357-22 in favor of a bipartisan bill supporting the alliance. More important than his audience with President Trump, Mr. Stoltenberg will be seeking to reinforce Congress's commitment to a historically important alliance, while trying to ease lawmakers' qualms about members-states' funding contributions. His trip comes at the direct invitation of Congress, so he can safely expect several standing ovations.

Even if Congress remains unified in its support for NATO, the American public's views on the alliance are more divided than in the past. A 2017 poll by Gallup found that just 69 percent of Republicans felt that NATO was still necessary, down from 80 percent at the twilight of the Cold War in 1989. By contrast, around 97 percent of Democrats felt the alliance was worth keeping.

The bottom line: A solid majority of Americans still back NATO, but the more the alliance becomes a partisan issue, the greater the risk that a future Congress might not be so willing to stand up for a pact that so far has stood the test of time.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Over the past eight days, the US-China relationship got notably hotter. None of the new developments detailed below is big enough by itself to kill hopes for better relations next year, but collectively they point in a dangerous direction.

US jabs over Hong Kong: On September 14, the US State Department issued a travel warning for the city because of what it calls China's "arbitrary enforcement of local laws" by police. The US is closely monitoring the case of 10 people detained by China while attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat. China's response to US criticism of its new security law in Hong Kong remains muted. That could change if relations deteriorate further.

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Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, joins Ian Bremmer on this week's World in 60 seconds to discuss multilateralism, optimism, and the return to normal in the post-pandemic world.

Could this pandemic actually present an opportunity to bolster global support for multilateralism and what should that look like moving forward, Brad?

Brad Smith:

Well, I think it's an imperative and it has to bolster support for multilateralism for a very simple reason. We cannot afford to assume that it will be another century before we see a pandemic like this again. We have to take from this experience, all of the learning we can muster and put in place what we will need to be better prepared. And the only way we can do that is to start with an obvious fact. Viruses don't respect borders. So people have to work together across them as governments and with the kinds of support from companies and civil society that it'll take to ensure that we don't find ourselves as ill prepared a decade from now or five years from now, as we were when this year began.

Ian Bremmer:

On the one hand, there's been a lot of lack of leadership, at least internationally, the G20 doing nearly as much coming out of this crisis that we saw coming out of the 2008 financial crisis when it was founded. On the other hand, you've got supra-nationalism in Europe with the Germans and the French, and indeed unanimous votes to actually create stronger redistribution, stronger capacity and resilience of that institution. You've got the World Health Organization, the UN here working with a bunch of leaders and the private sector.

What gives you cause so far for most optimism that we actually are going to respond more effectively?

Brad Smith:

Well, I think one of the fascinating aspects of this pandemic in its own way has been the critical importance of data. We're all relying on data, literally, to manage government decisions that determine whether we get to leave our homes, where we get to go, what we get to do. But the truth is what we've also learned is that the data that is needed to address something like this needs to be measured in a consistent way across borders. At Microsoft we're doing a lot of work with the World Health Organization. Just learning from that how each individual government can be more effective if it's collaborating with others in a more unified way, putting digital technology and data to work. I think there's a lot of insight from that narrow slice that in fact impacts every part of the economy in the world today.

Ian Bremmer:

One of the things that people have been most concerned about is that the pandemic is driving borders up. It's driving people farther apart. But the fact that technology is working as well as it is right now is also unlocking human capital in terms of distance learning, in terms of telemedicine for large numbers of people that otherwise would have been left further behind in a crisis like this.

Brad Smith:

We're all learning a lot. I think tele health services are one of the great examples of where we're going to find in the future that it doesn't mean that people will no longer go to a doctor, but they'll only go to a doctor when they need to see a doctor in person.

And we'll probably live in a world where people have more consultation with health professionals because tele-health will fill-in a void, but we're also finding all the cracks in our societies. What it means when some people have broadband and others don't. Some people have access to digital skills and others don't. So it's a world of new opportunity, but if the opportunity isn't distributed more broadly, then it's going to exacerbate all the divides we already worry about in our societies.

Ian Bremmer:

What's the piece of life after coronavirus when truly people feel safe, again, that we're not socially distancing and the rest, that you think is going to be most different from life before coronavirus?

Brad Smith:

Well, I think it's going to be a more of a mixture of hybrid life. I'm not one who believes that people will want to stay in their houses forever. I think there's a lot that can be accomplished when people get together that they can't do when they're by themselves. But there's also a lot that we can do that will add convenience and efficiency and effectiveness to our lives by combining this in-person interaction with remote sort of everything, shopping, ordering food, connecting with people around the world, we have the opportunity to build sort of a richer experience. But again, only if the technology that's essential for this is within everyone's reach.

Ian Bremmer:

I also think we could get used to being six feet apart from each other for a longer period of time.

Brad Smith:

Yeah. But I still think you'll go to a sporting event, people are still going to want to be in a crowd. Go to a theater, people are going to want to be in the crowd. It will be fascinating to see how long some of these other habits persist once we're finally out of the other end of this tunnel and can look at it in the rear view mirror.

As global leaders turn their attention to the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the 2020 General Assembly, GZERO Media offers a look back at one of the greatest diplomatic mysteries of the 20th century. The UN's second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld's mysterious death in 1961, while on a mission to Congo, is the subject of a new book by investigative correspondent and New York Times correspondent Ravi Somaiya. It has the twists and turns of a Tom Clancy novel.

Trump is willing to give up Wisconsin for Belarus' democracy? When multilateralism hits the Zoom calls, we can't really tell what's real and what's not. #PUPPETREGIME