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NATO still essential?

One of the victims of the transatlantic estrangement across the board during the Bush administration was NATO, the traditional embodiment of the strategic relationship between both sides of the Atlantic. The first test of the resilience of the alliance had of course come with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although the motives probably varied, initially majorities on both sides continued to see the organization as 'still essential'. However, this consensus was subject to considerable erosion over the years, particularly since 2002, as is shown in Figure 3.6.

NATO still essential? (1990-2011) (in % 'yes', US and EU-7)

Figure 3.6 NATO still essential? (1990-2011) (in % 'yes', US and EU-7)

Although there have always been strong fluctuations in support for NATO over the years, often related to the current temperature of the international climate, this time the decline seemed somewhat steeper and deeper. However, like sympathy for the US, support of NATO seemed on the way to recovery in 2009 - an upward shift that continued into 2010 and 2011.

But again, there are no differences between the US and Europe in this respect. The patterns and evolution over time are almost identical on both sides of the Atlantic.23 It should also be noted that, comparing the NATO trend for the four countries (France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, on which we have the longest data series available) with the trend in support for a strong US leadership, NATO seemed to suffer less during the Bush era than did the US. The average net desirability for the four European countries here considered was, +11 percentage points between 1960 and 2010 (and +9 between 1969 and 2010). In contrast, the average for NATO essentiality from 1969 to 2010 was +39 points.

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