The Shadow of Exit from NATO Academic Article uri icon


  • President Donald Trump has not been shy about trying to coerce close allies. This inclination has led to concerns that the president poses a unique threat to American alliances. Theoretically, these concerns are consistent with an influential line of argument pointing to strategic restraint and reassurance—via binding institutions—as what sets American alliances apart. However, the Trump presidency is not the first time that the shadow of exit has hung over the United States’ commitment to Europe. Indeed, a closer look at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) formative period shows that the United States actively considered leaving Europe throughout the 1950s. Even after resigning itself to staying in the early 1960s, the United States used threats of abandonment to put down the Franco-German revolt—the most significant challenge to its preponderant position in the NATO alliance. The primary implication is that American alliance relations have been characterized by more uncertainty—and less restraint and reassurance—than institutionalists have cared to emphasize, which paradoxically suggests that NATO, and the United States’ broader alliance network, is robust enough to survive President Trump’s attempts at coercion.

published proceedings

  • Strategic Studies Quarterly

author list (cited authors)

  • Schuessler, J., & Shifrinson, J

complete list of authors

  • Schuessler, John||Shifrinson, J

publication date

  • January 1, 2019 11:11 AM