As members of a bipartisan group confronting the erosion of democratic institutions in Europe, we are deeply concerned about rising illiberalism in certain states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a collective defense alliance founded “on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”
As NATO’s 29 members meet in Brussels on July 11-12, they will consider how to strengthen transatlantic bonds, deter and respond to cyberattacks and hybrid threats, improve counter-terrorism efforts, and enhance the organization’s Black Sea presence. The ability of NATO member states to address each of these issues, and to share the burden of common security, is contingent on a shared understanding of the ideological and political commitments at the heart of the alliance. Yet, with several NATO members actively undermining democratic institutions in their nations, and in some cases deepening relations with Russia, this common understanding is increasingly in doubt, which threatens the long-term viability, security, and cohesion of the alliance.
Given this reality, and as a starting point toward upholding the rights of all of their citizens, it is critical that heads of state of the NATO alliance use the upcoming summit to recommit to protecting democratic institutions and the rule of law through the official leaders’ communiqué.
We strongly urge that the following language be included in that document:
“NATO’s essential mission remains unchanged: to ensure that the alliance remains an unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Backsliding on these values constitutes a challenge to the unity and cohesion fundamental to robust collective defense. We pledge to enable free and independent media; to empower civil society; to safeguard democratic checks and balances on power; and to confront racism, antisemitism, and other forms of discrimination. We are united in our commitment to the Washington Treaty, the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and a vital transatlantic bond.”
At NATO and during the upcoming Brussels summit, it is imperative that the United States and like-minded member states lead the alliance in reaffirming our shared values, principles and commitment to our security alliance. That reaffirmation is a necessary step in the current climate to ensure that members of NATO uphold their founding commitments.
The Democracy in Europe Working Group, made up of former government officials, national security experts, faith leaders, scholars, and representatives of the human rights and democracy community, is committed to the protection of transatlantic democratic institutions in defense of collective security.