It was meant to be a celebration of the 70th anniversary of NATO. But the mood at a gathering of the alliance's leaders this week in London was anything but celebratory. There was no disguising the fact that NATO is in deep — even existential — trouble.

Nothing illustrated this unease more than the brief elation among NATO hands over U.S. President Donald Trump's surprising defense of the alliance. If Trump, previously a NATO skeptic, has had a change of heart, perhaps things are not so dire after all.

Except Trump didn't have a change of heart. His defense of the alliance was little more than a rhetorical stick with which to beat French President Emmanuel Macron, who had previously bemoaned the institution's "brain death."