Will the populist wave wash away NATO and the European Union?

According to Mark Galeotti's recent article in the NATO Review Magazine, "anti-establishment populism is undeniably on the rise across the West. From Donald Trump’s election pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, through Brexit, to the ascendancy of movements such as Italy’s Five Stars on the left and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland on the right, a rejection of old orthodoxies and with them political elites and institutions is proving a powerful appeal.

One can debate the causes, and clearly there are different specifics in play in Europe compared with the United States, and even various parts of Europe. What is clear, though, is that Moscow is eagerly encouraging this wave not just because it is challenging the premises of the post-1945 values-based liberal international order, but also because it is poses real security threats to Europe."

European Union torn

Although it is easy to decry the European Union for its elephantine procedures and Byzantine politics, it is also a fundamental element of the security architecture of the continent. Part of its particular challenge is that it is not only victim of the populist wave, it is also cause.¨

A powerful driver has been a perceived—and not entirely unjustified—belief that a Brussels elite is committed to a project of political unification out of step with the interests and ambitions of national constituencies. Although the twists and turns of the post-referendum British politics are not especially enlightening (“Brexit means Brexit” hardly provides much of a blueprint), nonetheless the prospect of a withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU has worsened the problem. For the most ardent federalists in Brussels, the self-exclusion of their most intransigent opponent means this is a time to push further and faster. To those already sceptical, though, this frees them to consider more “exits”.

This is more than just a political and economic issue. If there is one crucial lesson in the current discussions about Russia’s way of war—whether we call it hybrid, non-linear, or asymmetric—it is that conflict in the twenty-first century is just as much fought in the realms of politics, morale, economics and governance, as on the battlefield. While NATO remains the indispensable military alliance, the EU could play an invaluable role in all those domains rightly outside NATO’s remit.


You can find the full article here at NATO Review Magazine.

Dr Mark Galeotti is the IIR Senior Researcher as well as an internationally recognized expert on transnational organized crime, security issues and modern Russia.

If you are interested in hearing Dr Galeotti, you are welcome to attend his lecture tomorrow at 15:30 at the Czernin Palace of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.