Stories by Richard Fontaine

Expert Voices

NATO Secretary General sounds notes of caution for alliance

Jens Stoltenberg addressing Congress, with Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence seated behind him
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addressing a joint meeting of Congress on April 3, 2019. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Today Jens Stoltenberg became the first NATO Secretary General to address a joint session of Congress, where he touted the alliance's success and emphasized the continuing need for unity.

The big picture: NATO has much to celebrate, having emerged successfully from the Cold War and engaged in numerous operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. Yet questions about the U.S. commitment to the alliance, Europe's willingness to shoulder more of the burden, and other sources of division hang over this week's 70th anniversary festivities.

Expert Voices

Trump's sudden Syria decision undermines his own foreign policy team

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens as U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room
Defense Secretary Mattis with President Trump during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room on Oct. 23, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

President Trump has decided to quickly withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, against the advice of his most senior national security advisers. The move prompted the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and sparked widespread concerns about an ISIS revival.

The big picture: Aside from the results of the decision, the manner in which Trump made it was deeply problematic. By upending the public and private messages his own officials send, Trump disempowers and alienates his own diplomatic team. He also creates incentives that make his foreign policy agenda more difficult to attain.

Expert Voices

Trump deepens Russia contradictions at Helsinki summit

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki.
President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's warm embrace of Vladimir Putin at their summit in Helsinki has rightly drawn sharp criticism from across the political spectrum. Though Trump leads the far stronger country, it often seemed as if he was on the defensive while Putin set the tone and agenda.

Why it matters: Following Trump's rhetorical attacks on NATO allies in Brussels last week, the summit will be remembered for normalizing an adversary while weakening transatlantic solidarity. And it stands to deepen the administration's highly contradictory approach to Russia.