Over the past six days, President Biden has attended two key international gatherings — the G-7 meeting of the advanced industrial democracies and a NATO summit — both in Europe. The importance of these meetings is magnified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and growing Chinese territorial ambitions in Asia. The world is increasingly coalescing into two blocs: one constituting authoritarian regimes in Moscow and Beijing and the other comprising a coalition of the world’s principal democracies.

The G-7 and NATO meetings included Germany and Japan, two very different countries that have had remarkably similar histories over the better part of a century. Germany’s presence at the G-7 and NATO is a given since it is a founding member of both groupings. Japan has been a part of the G-7 since its founding, but its attendance at the NATO summit is something new. Therein lies a story.

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