An Inconvenient Truth: Addressing Democratic Backsliding Within NATO
The overriding concern of this week’s NATO Summit will be cohesion, with the security alliance facing crises of disunity on multiple fronts. In the West, President Donald Trump repeatedly calls into question NATO’s strategic value and berates America’s closest allies. Already, he has sent hostile letters to the leaders of several NATO member-states demanding they do more to pay their own way. In the East, an aggressive Russia has used conventional and nonconventional weapons to invade sovereign states and undermine European and American security. In continental Europe, migrant and refugee flows not seen since World War II are roiling internal politics within frontline and destination states.
There is also significant democratic backsliding among NATO member states. The cast of illiberal characters—who are leading the charge in the wrong direction—includes the recently reelected and empowered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice (PiS) Party in Poland, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the ruling Fidesz Party. Each has proven more than willing to repress free media, dismantle checks and balances, demonize political opposition, clamp down on civil society, and diminish the rule of law. America’s democratic system and norms under President Trump are also under duress; as a result, Freedom House downgraded the country’s score on the basis of weakening political rights and civil liberties.