Trudeau in Brus­sels for NATO sum­mit

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOANNA SMITH

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.

SEAN KILPATRICK, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is greeted by Bel­gium Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel as he ar­rives in Brus­sels on Wed­nes­day to at­tend the NATO sum­mit.

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