The western world is “two or three bad elections away” from the disintegration of the European Union and NATO. That’s according to Anne Applebaum, a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, who’s most recent column, This is How the West Ends, predicts a grim future for institutions once considered vital to the West’s economic survival and security.

Applebaum argues that the rise of Donald Trump in the United States mirrors the recent popularity of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. Le Pen, though less radical that her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded France’s far-right National Front party, has built her candidacy on rhetoric that echoes Trump’s campaigning. She wants to stop all legal immigration to France, abandon the European Union and remove France from NATO.

Similarly, Applebaum argues, the forthcoming British referendum on whether to leave the European Union reflects troubling times for an era that was meant to unite Europe and bring economic and political stability to the region.

All this, Applebaum claims is reason to worry:

“In my adult life, I cannot remember a moment as dramatic as this: Right now we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it,” she writes.

Applebaum acknowledges that both Trump and Le Pen are long-shots to win their respective races. But, as she writes, “elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle.” 

“We’re seeing, in Europe, in a number of countries across the continent, also in the United States, a number of very similar trends,” Applebaum said. “We have politicians coming to power or gaining prominence who are opposed to free trade, who aren’t very interested in international cooperation of the kind that we’ve had for so many years, and who no longer want to work together with other countries to achieve common goals.”

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International