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NATO Is Not Brain Dead

The Alliance Is Transforming Faster Than Most People Think

Leaders at the NATO summit in London, December 2019 Han Yan / Xinhua / Eyevine / Redux

In November, French President Emmanuel Macron told The Economist that NATO so lacked direction that it was suffering “brain death.” The remark drew criticism from both European and U.S. officials, but when the leaders of NATO member states met in London on December 4, Macron’s words served as a catalyst. Indeed, as Macron said after the summit, his comments were like a giant “icebreaker,” making a lot of noise but clearing the way for the alliance to plow forward.

The alliance has much to grapple with. It must contend with a resurgent Russia, a rising China, continuing terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and the imperative to keep up with advances in military technology. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, took the occasion of the London meeting to begin a review process, in which the alliance would determine how it will confront the new realities of the twenty-first century.

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