“Dear President Trump, America does not have, and will not have a better ally than Europe.” European Council President, Donald Tusk spoke these words – a sentiment I regularly trumpet – ahead of this week’s annual NATO summit that took place in Brussels.

The lead up to this summit was a tense one – with questions abound over whether Trump would be “Triumphant, Tetchy or Torpedo” as this piece from The Economist questioned. Fears that we would see a repeat of his performance from the G7 were well-founded, and as I told them, “we’ve seen that movie and it didn’t end well.”

As it so happened, President Trump played this in a most predictable way: he began at a breakfast meeting held in Brussels with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, by launching an attack against NATO members “for not paying what they should” and claiming they owed money from years back. I spoke with TIME magazine about Trump’s comments, which were disheartening to say the least, not because he’s wrong about NATO members needing to spend more (I think they should), but because it exposes a deeper problem – mainly that the president does not seem to understand how NATO works. The 2 percent of GDP is a guideline, not a mandate. We’re not talking about a country club. After all, as Donald Tusk has rightly said, this is our most important alliance. And while other nations are slowly but surely making their way towards reaching that 2 percent goal, the European NATO members are doing an awful lot to support and strengthen the alliance, and we should be appreciative of that. I talked with Brian Kilmeade on his FOX radio show about this and more – covering everything from NATO spending and activities, to Brexit and whether that should be returned to another referendum vote, to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest trip to North Korea.

Finally, with all the turmoil we’ve seen and the issues that Trump’s recent interactions with our long-held allies has stirred up, the specter of weakening alliances that would strengthen the hands of our foes (see: Russia and China) has many of us on edge. And with good reason. But as I wrote for this week’s TIME cover story, democracy isn’t perfect, but it will still prevail.

Once again, it seems, democracy has a competitor. Strongmen are rising in part because elected governments are struggling to address new challenges: global migration, technological advances, transnational terrorism, and international economic unrest. How the remaining members of the free world respond to this challenge is one of the great questions of the moment. It may be that while our president views his embrace of America’s longtime ideological foes as a clever negotiating strategy, others see something darker. For my part, I say it’s far too early to lose hope.

Read the full cover story in TIME magazine for my extended analysis of the forces and counter-forces at play, but remember as former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (a bit of a strongman himself, in his own way!) famously said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all of the others.”

As always, thanks for reading.

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