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NATO Solidarity: Atlantic Community is a Vision, not yet a Reality

The Pew Research Center's transatlantic survey indicates a high degree of security complacency and a lack of solidarity across NATO member publics. Evidently, the Atlantic Community is still a distant future, with this vision being marred by an absence of real unity. We must encourage more policy dialogue between citizens throughout Europe and across the Atlantic and thereby create empathy and a shared identity.

Many in the European publics, especially the Germans, take US support for granted, feel comfortable as security free-riders, and don't seem to understand NATO's concept of collective defense. From the Pew Research Center:

Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively). Germans (58%) are the most likely to say their country should not. All NATO member publics are more likely to think the United States will come to an ally's defense (median of 68%) than to be willing to do so themselves. (…) Poles stand out as less certain that the U.S. would come to an ally's aid (49% would, 31% would not).

This is quite troubling and disconcerting as only a friend in need is a friend indeed. But, according to this poll, we are not even „fair weather friends", as we oppose solidarity already, before a NATO ally has even been attacked. Coming to each other's defense is the most basic principle of a friendship or partnership. Failing to do so is obviously infinitely worse than a disagreement about out-of-area missions or specific strategies. and other transatlantic initiatives have a lot of work to do to create a true Atlantic Community, i.e. a significant degree of empathy, solidarity, and common identity to justify the term "community". Social networking and policy dialogue on between citizens throughout Europe and across the Atlantic is supposed to create empathy for each other's positions and build solidarity to count on in times of need. The Pew survey indicates that Atlantic Community is still more of a vision than a reality.

What do you make of this poll?

  • Is there indeed a severe empathy and solidarity problem across NATO countries, and especially in Germany? What should do (differently)?
  • Do you find fault in the survey's wording, methodology or conclusions? Should pollsters first inform the respondents of the context of the questions and the consequences of the various options in order to make better informed decisions? Other surveys come to other conclusions.
  • Are polls overrated? We live in representative democracies for a good reason. No country is making military decisions via a referendum. The governments of all NATO Member states have adopted a wide range of political and military measures to reassure allies and demonstrate solidarity and unity to allies, friends, foes and frenemies for over six decades. Really nothing to worry?

Jörg Wolf is editor of, published by the Atlantische Initiative. That's his job. Not to be confused with this blog (Atlantic Review), which is his hobby.


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