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History | Geography | Citizenship | PSHE

Biden tells NATO leaders: ‘America is back’

Hardline: Biden wants Nato to take a firmer stance against Russia and China "A sacred commitment." This is how President Joe Biden recently described Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which commits every member of NATOThe North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was founded in 1949 to unite Western democracies in Europe and North America against the perceived growing threat of the USSR. It now has 31 members. to treat an attack on one member as an attack on them all. In ordinary times, this would be an unremarkable thing for a US president to say. But Biden is speaking in the long shadow of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who disrupted NATO conferences and frequently threatened to leave the organisation. Yesterday, Biden met other representatives in BrusselsThe capital of Belgium., to try and repair the damage of the last four years. Some, however, think Trump might have had a point. They argue that NATO was an alliance forged for a very different era - and that it is no longer relevant in the modern day. The North Atlantic Treaty was written in 1949. At that time, the whole of Eastern Europe was under the control of communistAn economic system entailing collective ownership of all means of production in contrast with capitalism, which holds that industry and businesses are controlled and run for profit by private owners rather than by the government. governments allied with the USSRThe United Socialist Soviet Republic, the USA’s main rival in the Cold War before it collapsed and broke up into a number of smaller states in 1991.. But the communist governments of Eastern Europe collapsed in the 1990s. Many former communist states are now members of NATO. For some, this means the treaty no longer has any purpose. Yet others argue that NATO still has a role to play. Biden wants it to act as an bulwarkA defensive wall. against the dictatorships of the 21st Century. He wants it to prove that democracies can compete with the authoritarianEnforcing strict obedience to authority. political models used by rising powers like China. And he also wants it to take a firmer line against Russia, which he accuses of subverting Western democracy. Some experts think the problem for Biden is that many of NATO's own members are increasingly authoritarian. In Turkey, President Tayyip Recep Erdogan has drastically expanded his own powers, locked up journalists and persecuted minorities. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor OrbanThe prime minister of Hungary. He has clashed with the EU over gay rights and the independence of the judiciary. has extended state power over the media and the judiciary. While these leaders and their countries remain in NATO, many suggest it will be hard for the organisation to be taken seriously as a champion of democracy. And others still, point out that there is also a growing rift between the USA and its European allies. During the Cold WarA period of diplomatic conflict between blocs led by the USA and the USSR that lasted from 1947 until 1991, when the USSR collapsed., Europe and America were united by their opposition to communism and their fear of Soviet power. But today, their interests are quite different. The USA has accused Russia of interfering in its elections and believes it is a threat to democracy. European states, however, want to maintain close diplomatic relations with Russia because they are dependent on the Eastern giant for their supplies of natural gas. The same is true of China. The USA sees China as a growing threat to its military and economic might. But most of Europe benefits from Chinese trade and does not want to alienate the superpower. When NATO members are divided on such fundamental issues, it is difficult to see how the organisation can function effectively. Is NATO still necessary? Nat-no Yes, say some. In the 1990s, there was widespread optimism that the age of dictatorships was over, and that every country would, in time, become a liberal democracy. Today, however, some of the world's biggest powers are authoritarian regimes, and there are fears that smaller countries will try to emulate them. Liberal democracy needs a champion, and NATO can serve that purpose. Not in the least, say others. NATO is a relic of the Cold War, created to defeat an enemy that no longer exists. Today it is hopelessly divided over how to respond to countries like Russia and China and regularly embarrassed by the dictatorial ambitions of member states like Turkey and Hungary. It cannot defend liberal democracy when so many of its leaders fail to uphold its ideals. KeywordsNato - The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was founded in 1949 to unite Western democracies in Europe and North America against the perceived growing threat of the USSR. It now has 31 members.

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