Press Release - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

New Report Focuses on NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis

| Feb. 14, 2019

Cambridge, MA—As the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) approaches, the world’s oldest and most successful military alliance of democratic nations faces serious and complex challenges to its purpose, effectiveness, and unity in 2019.

Former U.S. Permanent Representatives to NATO Douglas Lute and Nicholas Burns highlight ten major challenges to NATO in a new report, NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis, and offer recommendations to bolster this critically important alliance.
Burns, who is Faculty Chair of The Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, and Lute, a Senior Fellow with the Europe Project, will discuss the report during events at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, February 15.  

“NATO is facing one of its most difficult crises in seven decades,” said Nicholas Burns. “While NATO has strategic challenges to meet, the single greatest threat is the absence of strong, principled American presidential leadership for the first time in its history.”

Douglas Lute said, “We hope that this report serves as food for thought within the Alliance, prompting attention to tough, strategic challenges and deep introspection among the allies. NATO should move revitalized and retooled into the decades ahead, and again demonstrate its ability to adapt.”

Based on extensive discussions with current European and North American leaders, former senior officials, academics, and journalists, Burns and Lute recommend that Congress pass legislation this year to protect NATO, such as requiring Congressional approval should President Trump attempt to alter U.S. treaty commitments to NATO allies or seek to take the U.S. out of the Alliance altogether. They also offer recommendations on how NATO should cope with low European defense spending, Russia’s continued aggression in Eastern Europe, anti-democratic governments within NATO, Afghanistan, China and more. 

The authors recommend action in these areas:

Challenges from Within NATO

  • Reviving American Leadership of the Alliance   
  • Restoring European Defense Strength   
  • Upholding NATO’s Democratic Values  
  • Streamlining NATO Decision-Making

Challenges from Beyond NATO’s Borders

  • Containing Putin’s Russia  
  • Ending the Afghan War  
  • Refocusing NATO Partnerships  
  • Maintaining an Open Door to Future Members  
  • Challenges on the Horizon
  • Winning the Technology Battle in the Digital Age   
  • Competing with China  

Read the full report here. 


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:New Report Focuses on NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis.” Press Release, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, February 14, 2019.


Nicholas Burns