Apr 3, 2019

NATO Secretary General sounds notes of caution for alliance

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.

Where it stands: Doubts continue to swirl as foreign ministers from NATO's 29 member states visit Washington, with events planned at the White House, Congress, the State Department and elsewhere. As Stoltenberg cautioned, "Questions are being asked on both sides of the Atlantic about the strength of our partnership."

  • Europeans wonder about President Trump's commitment to the mutual defense pact, and whether the United States would rush to their aid in a crisis.
  • As the Trump administration has stressed the need for allies to boost their defense spending, the number moving toward the pledged 2% of GDP has increased — a product of both Trump's rhetoric and worries about Russia. Most still haven't hit the target, however, and Germany's percentage appears set to decrease.
  • Creeping illiberalism in Turkey, Hungary and Poland threatens the democratic values that underpin NATO. Although the alliance has endured nondemocratic governments in its membership before, including Portugal and Greece, differences over such essential matters are presenting a new challenge to cohesion.

Between the lines: Nevertheless, NATO is likely to survive, and if anything to become even more relevant than in recent years.

  • The United States and Europe must deter and defend against not only Russian conventional threats but also Moscow's attempts to interfere in key democracies.
  • The allies are beginning to discuss the shared challenge of Chinese economic competition and the political influence that goes along with it.
  • Threats on Europe's periphery — from North Africa to the Middle East — will provide fodder for common action. The migration crisis has had a profound effect on European politics and points to the dangers posed by failed states like Syria and Libya.

The bottom line: It is shared interests, and not just democratic values, that glue NATO's allies together. Interests tend to endure. So too will the alliance.

Richard Fontaine is CEO of the Center for a New American Security.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Brazil on Monday recorded for the first time more deaths from the novel coronavirus in a single day than the United States, Reuters notes. Brazil reported 807 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, compared to 620 in the U.S. for the same period.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 5,490,954 — Total deaths: 345,962 — Total recoveries — 2,228,915Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 1,662,250 — Total deaths: 98,218 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 50 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Ocean City in New Jersey on May 25. Photo: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Details: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, and there were crowded scenes in several places, notably at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri and at Daytona Beach and on the Gulf Coast in Florida, per AP. Police dispersed crowds in some places, ABC notes. But many Americans did take precautions against COVID-19 as they ventured outside for the long weekend, some three months after the pandemic began in the U.S.