A Warning against Euphoria

NATO is back, and the U.S. is leading the charge. But that could change very quickly.

At its summit in Madrid, NATO is leaving all self-doubt behind. Almost overnight, Russia’s war against Ukraine reminded the North Atlantic alliance of its immediate and actual reason for being: deterring any potential enemy attack on its members with strength and unity. And the U.S. is standing front and center.

There is no doubt that President Joe Biden is serious. But his presidency is hanging by a silk thread, and not only because of the midterm elections in November. The return of his predecessor, Donald Trump, to the White House is still possible as well.

Trump wrote off NATO because he considered the U.S. strong enough to act in its interests alone, even if it required dizzying deals. Trump’s reelection would plunge trans-Atlantic relations back into a deep crisis. That makes the current efforts of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, which is investigating the former president’s responsibility for the storming of the Capitol in 2021, even more decisive.

Those efforts are no longer about trying to prevent Trump from running for office in 2024. Only the Republican Party and its base, whose support for Trump has remained unfazed, could do that. Thus, his opponents are concentrating on preventing Trump’s potential candidacy through legal channels. The deciding factor will be whether they can adequately prove that Trump knowingly broke the law to change the election results in his favor and, after that failed, goaded armed supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Recent testimony from the White House’s inner circle about Trump’s intentions and strategy suggest that conspiracy charges are no longer out of the question. It remains an open question, however, whether other witnesses may provide contrary evidence.

In the end, the decision to indict Trump belongs to Attorney General Merrick Garland alone. He is in a less than enviable position. A fight that is, at its core, political is going to be decided legally because democracy no longer has the strength to decide it alone. That is a disturbing description of the state of affairs in the U.S.

“Memento mori,” a slave whispered in the ear of a victorious general. “Remember that you must die.” NATO and Europe should not thoughtlessly ignore this, precisely because the winds in the U.S. could quickly change direction again.

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