NATO’s Five Stages of Biden Grief

nato summit joe biden
There is still a fair bit of self-soothing talk, such as alliance officials rationalizing for themselves exactly why Trump would never pull out of NATO or abandon Ukraine. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
July 9, 2024

It was supposed to be a triumphal moment: a celebration of the NATO alliance’s 75th birthday in the capital of its backbone and main underwriter, the United States. The summit, which was booked for this week years ago to accommodate Joe Biden’s schedule, was supposed to be a high point for a president who came into office with sterling, even platinum, foreign policy credentials—the exact opposite of his proudly know-nothing predecessor. 

America’s NATO allies—in fact, pretty much the entire European continent—breathed a massive, jubilant sigh of relief upon Biden’s election in 2020. Here was someone they could trust and who shared their worldview, someone who would take things back to normal and restore balance in the transatlantic universe. This week’s NATO summit was supposed to be the capstone of this restoration, the reunification of the alliance after Donald Trump scared the bejesus out of it. Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the West’s response, only solidified this transcendent single-mindedness. Then came The Debate, and everything seemed to change.