The heads of state and government of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member nations will meet in Brussels on July 11 and 12. US President Donald J. Trump will be among those present.

Here are six facts you should know about the Alliance that has been credited with maintaining peace in Europe for the past seven decades.

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Despite the current political tension in the transatlantic bond, the facts on the ground for NATO’s summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12 could not be better. After years of calls from the United States for more defense investment, NATO allies have been responding ever more credibly to meet the rising threats in the east and the south, independently and together. Favorable economic winds are increasing defense budgets for allies in Europe and Canada for the fourth consecutive year, and NATO defense ministers recently agreed to the “Four Thirties” initiative to bolster the Alliance’s military readiness. Meanwhile, a wealth of new initiatives to boost capabilities and readiness are growing in Europe, providing promising European answers to European challenges. NATO leaders – and the United States in particular – should contemplate how to support and complement these European programs, rather than nip the buds before they blossom.

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NATO faces an array of security threats from the Arctic in the north, Russia in the east, and migrant flows from the south, all of which demand a dynamic and flexible defense force. Although members of the Alliance have increased investment in defense, their focus has been on expensive technology for a potential high-end conflict. Counterterrorism operations, meanwhile, have worn out the Alliance’s existing capabilities. This approach is unsustainable as NATO’s task-saturated and resource-constrained defense forces must both confront today’s security threats and prepare for tomorrow’s conflicts.

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US President Donald J. Trump sent ripples through the transatlantic community after sending letters to NATO allies demanding that they spend more on their own defense. Trump’s stance appears to stem from the belief—shared by many in the United States—that European allies have long taken advantage of American military protection without making a fair contribution to common security. This view rests on the assumption that the United States is paying for European defense and receiving nothing in return.

As the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenman and the Center for Transatlantic Relations’ Hans Binnendijk write in their issue brief, NATO’s Value to the United States: By the Numbers, however, this is far from the case. Here is what they listed as the key benefits the United States gets from NATO:

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On June 12, the prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia announced a historic agreement to settle a decades-long quarrel over Macedonia’s name. Leaders from around the world praised the Balkan neighbors for putting aside nationalist disputes. The deal is not yet done, however. Opposition to the agreement is strong in both countries. If the new deal is to hold, Macedonia needs more than congratulatory tweets and letters.

The “name issue” is no abstraction. Greece has used it, among other things, to block Macedonia’s accession to NATO, and the prospect of lifting Greece’s hold may have convinced the Macedonian government to face down its own nationalists and seek a resolution. To seal the deal, therefore, NATO’s summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12 should issue a formal invitation to Macedonia to join the Alliance, as they had been prepared to do ten years ago, but could not because of the name issue.

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The World Cup’s knockout rounds are in full swing, and followers of Middle East soccer will now have to root for teams outside the region. Despite some compelling narratives – the dramatic politicization of Egyptian star Mo Salah, Iran’s rags-to-riches goalkeeper saving a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shrugging off his team’s loss to Russia with Vladimir Putin – most Middle Eastern sides rather ignominiously crashed out of the tournament in the group stages.

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The recent election of Italy’s new populist government led by the anti-immigration Lega political party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement has added extra heat to the Mediterranean’s already sweltering summer.

Over the past few weeks, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the head of the Lega party, followed through on his election promise of preventing migrants from entering into Italy and shut down the country’s southern ports to charity ships with migrants onboard.

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Anti-Access/Area-Denial capabilities (A2/AD)—the ability to prevent an adversary from entering an area of land, sea, or air—have become a major component of military force postures for powers around the globe, but Russia is the most committed to advancing their development. Russian A2/AD capabilities are shaping NATO’s neighborhood and the Alliance needs a comprehensive strategy to counter them effectively in times of peace, crisis, and conflict.

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NATO’s July 11-12 summit in Brussels will be defined by two basic objectives: demonstrating political unity and resolve and advancing military readiness. The latter provides the means necessary to deter and defeat adversaries. Only with the former can this community of democracies fully leverage those capabilities. Both are critical to the effectiveness and long-viability of NATO, history’s most effective military alliance.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s use of military force and hybrid warfare tactics in his country’s immediate neighborhood and beyond has brought into question NATO’s ability to defend its eastern border. Russian hybrid warfare, with an increased focus on asymmetric and nontraditional military capabilities, has made it considerably more difficult for NATO to counter destabilization efforts, information operations, cyberattacks, disinformation, propaganda, and psychological operations. Such hybrid warfare represents a security challenge not just for the frontline Baltic States, but also for all of NATO.

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