The One Where We Talk About NATO at a Party

You’re making the rounds at a party when someone asks you about NATO. Is it still important? The alliance is credited with preventing a third world war, but a lot of us don’t know what it is or how it works. This episode takes a look at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from the ground up, paired best with a cold drink.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Podcast Host and Producer
Episode Guests
  • Charles A. Kupchan
    Senior Fellow
  • Alina Polyakova
    President and CEO, Center for European Policy Analysis

Show Notes

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is credited with bringing a peaceful end to the Cold War and preventing conflict in the seven decades since its founding. At the core of the alliance is its collective defense provision, Article V, which stipulates that an attack on any of its twenty-nine members is tantamount to an attack on all.


But in recent years, criticism has mounted that member states are getting a free ride at the United States’ expense—enjoying NATO’s security umbrella without contributing enough to its maintenance. In this episode, experts Charles Kupchan and Alina Polyakova layout NATO’s history, its current role, and the danger of forgetting why it was created in the first place.


From CFR


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Jonathan Masters


Does NATO Still Matter?,” Council on Foreign Relations


Seven Decades of NATO,” James M. Lindsay, Corey Cooper, and Elizabeth Lordi


Ukraine: Conflict at the Crossroads of Europe and Russia,” Jonathan Masters


Read More


NATO’s website


Trump Warns NATO Allies to Spend More on Defense, or Else,” New York Times


Trump’s reported desire to leave NATO is a belated Christmas present for Putin,” NBC News


Trump keeps criticizing NATO allies over spending. Here’s how NATO’s budget actually works.,” Business Insider


Trump administration to cut its financial contribution to NATO,” CNN


Watch or Listen


The birth of NATO,” NATO


The Russians Are Coming: NATO’s Frontier,” Vice News


NATO’s increasing close calls with Russia,” CNN


Europe’s frontline: the Latvians caught in Russia and Nato’s Baltic war games,” Guardian


Nato summit: The rifts behind its 70th birthday bash,” BBC

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In 2022, several colossal events dominated the headlines, most prominently the war in Ukraine and the worldwide inflation that it helped spark. But beyond Ukraine, events with global implications continued to unfold. In this episode, Why It Matters checks in with three CFR fellows and CFR President Richard Haass to understand the least-covered stories of 2022 and to take a peek at what could await the world in 2023.

Technology and Innovation

For years, the world thought of the internet as a borderless zone that brought people from around the world together. But as governments pursue very different regulatory paths, the monolithic internet is breaking apart. Now, where there had been one, there are at least three internets: one led by the United States, one by China, and one by the European Union.

International Organizations

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Qatar, and billions of fans worldwide are tuning in to the world’s most popular live event. And yet as in years past, the Qatar Cup is transpiring under the shadow of controversy.

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