Trudeau in Brussels for NATO summit
BRUSSELS — The new headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — a massive, state-ofthe-art facility that cost more than 1 billion euros to build — was designed to help the military alliance step boldly into the future.
The building is not completely ready, but on Thursday it will nonetheless greet U.S. President Donald Trump for an ad hoc meeting where everyone hopes to hear where exactly the leader of NATO’s most powerful presence stands on the alliance’s existence.
The symbolism is not lost on Allen Sens, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia whose research focuses on international conflict and security.
“For decades, NATO has really needed a better facility,” said Sens. “Now it gets one — at the precise moment that the volatility ... begins to suggest that divergent views and interests are beginning to cause a serious strain in the unity and the consensus of the alliance.”
There is no overstating the importance of the United States to NATO, even in a forum where all 28 member nations — including Canada — have a voice in building consensus around the table.
“The American contribution to NATO is so immense that it really does define what the alliance does,” said Shuvaloy Majumdar, a Munk senior fellow at the Macdonald Laurier Institute.
That has always been the case; the U.S. has long called for more equitable burden-sharing when it comes to covering the cost of deterrence and collective defence. But America’s oversized role seems to bother Trump more than it did his predecessors.
On the campaign trail, candidate Trump famously described NATO as “obsolete.” And while he did say last month that he had changed on his mind on that front after learning more about what NATO does, he has never explicitly endorsed Article 5 — the self-defence clause that means an attack on one member generates a response by all.
There were no doubt sighs of relief among allies Wednesday when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that his country would, “of course,” support Article 5.
Trump remains adamant other NATO members increase their defence spending, which is where things could get uncomfortable for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada spends just over one per cent of its GDP on defence, half of NATO’s target, putting the country among the bottom third of allies.
Trump is also pushing for NATO to play a bigger role in the fight against ISIL. Terrorism, which was already going to be a major theme of the Brussels meeting, is likely to get even more attention following Monday’s deadly attack on a crowded concert arena in Manchester.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is greeted by Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel as he arrives in Brussels on Wednesday to attend the NATO summit.