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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.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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A body blow for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Imran Khan suffered an embarrassing defeat this week when members of the National Assembly, the country's lower house, voted to give the opposition bloc a majority in the Senate. (In Pakistan, lower house legislators and provincial assemblies elect senators in a secret ballot.) The big drama of it all is that Khan's own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a lower house majority, which means that lawmakers supposedly loyal to his party voted in secret for opposition candidates. Khan's allies claim that PTI members were bribed to support the opposition, and the prime minister says he will ask for a lower house vote of confidence in his leadership. That vote will not be secret, but even if he survives, the political damage is done. Without a Senate majority, he has no chance of passing key reform plans, including constitutional amendments meant to centralize financial and administrative control in the federal government. Khan has, however, refused to resign.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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