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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.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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