Stoltenberg (at podium) during his address. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today made an impassioned case for the enduring importance of the NATO alliance, which marks its 70th anniversary this week, before a joint session of Congress.

The backdrop: Stoltenberg’s invitation to address Congress — and the string of standing ovations he received — serves as a pointed reminder to President Trump of the bipartisan support for the alliance, which Trump has at times portrayed as a financial drag on the U.S. with dwindling geopolitical significance. Stoltenberg praised Trump for pressuring allies to spend more on defense, while noting “serious disagreements” in the alliance over issues like trade and the Iran nuclear deal. But he said NATO remains crucial to both the U.S. and Europe in the face of “unprecedented challenges.”

Stoltenberg said that among the “challenges no one nation can face alone” are a shifting global balance of power, sophisticated cyberattacks and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence that could be used in warfare.

  • On a personal note, Stoltenberg reflected on being instructed to “hold the line” against the Soviet Union during his time as a conscript in the Norwegian army. He said Norwegian troops knew they could never fend off the Soviet Union alone, but could with NATO behind them.

His bottom line: Stoltenberg was the first secretary general to address Congress. He said NATO had “not lasted 70 years out of a sense of nostalgia,” but because it was central to the national interests of its members.

  • In closing, he said: “Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, it is good to have friends.”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Cleanup on aisle Biden

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

After two gaffes and a low blow from President Trump questioning his faith, Joe Biden spent Thursday evening off his own message — clarifying comments and responding to attacks.

Why it matters: Biden’s responses reflect what we could see a lot more of in the next few months — cringeworthy comments and Trump smears, smacking into each other and pulling the Democrat off course.

2020 election strategy: Hire all the lawyers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus has sent overall U.S. unemployment into the double digits — but it's a sort of full-employment act for election law attorneys.

The big picture: The prospect of extended court fights over COVID-19-related voting changes, an absentee ballot avalanche, foreign interference and contested presidential results has prompted a hire-all-the-lawyers binge by candidates and campaigns — not just in swing states but around the country.

Right-wing media defanged by dissolving anti-Biden storylines

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The three biggest anti-Joe Biden storylines in right-wing media over the last year have either fizzled or are getting less online traction than they used to, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: This dynamic has rendered a formidable media ecosystem less effective in boosting President Trump as we move into the heart of the 2020 campaign.