Trade and Investment

Is the Transatlantic Alliance at a Tipping Point?

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Minister of Defence of the Netherlands during the Session, Is the Transatlantic Alliance at a Tipping Point?, at the Annual Meeting 2017 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 18, 2017 Copyright by World Economic Forum / Valeriano Di Domenico. .

Image: Valeriano Di Domenico

Dan Horch
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Trade and Investment?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Trade and Investment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Trade and Investment

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Will NATO survive the current political and strategic pressures it faces? Should it? Both questions may have the same answer: NATO should survive, but to do so it will have to adapt to face new internal pressures and external threats.

Facing challenges

The president-elect of the United States has not clarified his view of the transatlantic alliance and he recently called it “obsolete”. Elections this coming year in Germany, France, and the Netherlands could bring to power governments that question the European project, whose stability is fundamental to NATO. At the same time, cyber intrusions, violent extremism and instability in many of Europe’s Middle Eastern and African neighbours pose challenges that the alliance is not confronting effectively enough. The alliance might be at a tipping point. If it fails either to hold together or to defend its member states and their values vigorously, it would be a tragic mistake.

Better together

The transatlantic alliance has held together for more than 70 years. The countries that form it share values, and the alliance has helped provide peace and prosperity for its members. Whether in the fight against cybercrime and ISIS, or in the attempt to increase stability in Afghanistan and the Middle East, or simply to have a strong negotiating position with China or Russia, NATO’s member countries are better together than apart.

“Don’t sound the death knell of the transatlantic alliance so soon,” Frederick Kempe, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Atlantic Council, USA, said. President-elect Trump’s security team is far more conventional than his populist rhetoric, so even if his approach to NATO is uncertain for now, there are promising signs of engagement with Europe.

Recent populist movements have questioned many multinational institutions, but NATO itself is proof that countries can cooperate closely without giving up too much national sovereignty.

Sharing burdens and strategies

Donald Trump has called for Europe to increase its defence spending to better share the burden and Europe needs to respond. “Europe has to take on its fair share of the burden. We have to spend more on defence,” Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Minister of Defence of Germany, said. Germany’s defence budget is already rising faster than its overall budget, she said. She added that Europe should also do more to handle European problems, such as instability in its neighbour Africa, on its own. But even with a stronger military, Europe cannot do it all alone. “The world continues to need American leadership. It continues to need a strong transatlantic alliance,” Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Minister of Defence of the Netherlands, said.

To be most effective, the alliance has to apply a mix of hard and soft power: military action against violent extremists, and efforts to rebuild, educate, communicate and offer opportunities in countries that are security threats. The alliance is capable of getting this combination right, as its intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s shows. The recent reconquest of large parts of Iraq from ISIS may prove to be another example of success. Different from the initial invasion of Iraq, the alliance is now offering rebuilding and humanitarian assistance after military action.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

TradeTech Forum 2024 outlook session and closing remarks - watch live

World Economic Forum

February 26, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum