May 25, 2017: NATO leaders meet at new headquarters in climate of uncertainty
BELGIUM - NATO leaders meet, with an agenda weighed-down by recent United States military action, to inaugurate the Alliance’s new palace of steel and glass in Brussels.
In the space of one week from Apr 6, the United States ordered a missile strike on a Syrian air base, sent the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its strike group into Korean waters as a message to North Korea and dropped its biggest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS base in Afghanistan.
The question is how the targets and their allies will retaliate: any attack on the United States will draw NATO into the fray. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded initially with the threat of a nuclear strike.
The U.S. actions threaten to dominate the summit, but the leaders will have to take time to assess progress with the Alliance’s new Baltic Deterrent Force, and with its mission to buttress cyber defense. The leaders adopted a Cyber Defence Pledge at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in Jul 2016, committing “to enhance and strengthen the cyber defenses of national infrastructures and networks as a matter of priority.”
The designers envisioned the shape of the new headquarters as evoking fingers interlaced in a symbolic clasp of unity. The Alliance backed the U.S. missile strike on Syria, after the fact, as a response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Signs of a potential quagmire would threaten ongoing unity.
Moscow considers the Baltic Force, as well as the increased number of military drills near Russian territory, the creation of anti-ballistic missile sites in Europe and other moves as threats to Russia’s national security. Relations between Moscow and NATO soured in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and began supporting the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin’s military support for Assad has upset most NATO members.
Brussels faces a security challenge during the summit. The presence of the NATO leaders looms as a magnet for both terrorists and anti-NATO and anti-Trump protestors.