After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO was an alliance in search of a role. Some suggested that if NATO did not “go out of area,” beyond Europe, it would “go out of business.”
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 revived NATO’s central importance as a counterweight to Moscow. But the alliance still seemed on its way to obsolescence, hobbled by a lack of purpose and disunity.
Former President Donald J. Trump ridiculed it and threatened to abandon it. President Emmanuel Macron of France bemoaned its “brain death.” The European Union pressed for “strategic autonomy” from Washington.
But Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s extraordinary new demands and threats, following his military buildup on the borders of Ukraine, has brought NATO back to basics — containing Russian power and imperium.
“NATO relies on momentum, and a lot of the momentum is generated by a sense of threat and fear,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former senior intelligence officer dealing with Russia, now with the Center for a New American Security.
After last year’s fiasco of Afghanistan and the humiliation of France in the Australian submarine deal, she said, “We were all thinking that we have serious problems in the alliance, and we might need to rethink the foundation of this relationship.”
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