|Heaps of helos flew over--at least five of these squadrons|
This picture also shows the big NATO building and
how not so close we are to it.
What was different this time?
- The room was not nearly as deep blue.
- The room was set up like theatre in the round, which meant I mostly saw people's backs.
- Instead of the "cool, let's see how much progress we make vibe," we had a "$Q@#$@$, do we have to focus only 2% and burden-sharing, as opposed to NATO doing stuff" vibe. Oh, and a kind of exhausted parent of a toddler kind of feel.
- The panels were different from the past (see below)
So, how did it go?
The first panel was far more interesting than expected: German Minister of Defense von der Leyen was feisty and dynamic as she had to put up with a pretty hostile Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Cavusoglu with the Polish MFA Czaputowicz being pretty meh. Things got hot when the Turkish MFA explained that Turkey bought Russian missiles since Germany abandoned Turkey and said that Italy was a real ally, indicating Germany was not so much of one. So, not the political niceties and superblandness I was expected.
|Closest I have ever been to PMJT|
The third panel had the surprisingly humorous Jens Stoltenberg, NATO SG, getting grilled by CNN reporter Barbara Starr. He joked that Trump paid for breakfast (the one where Trump yelled at him). It was not that informative, but still pretty interesting.
The final panel before lunch was on Inclusive Security. This mostly referred to women in a variety of ways, and had three speakers---one American LTG Shepro, Isabelle Arradon of the International Crisis Group and Lima Ahmad, an Afghan from NATO Defence College. It was pretty good, but was light on specific policy recommendations--that my pal Stefanie Von Hlatky pointed out the initiatives regarding women in the NATO communique were thinner than she had seen in previous drafts. Still, it was well done and interesting.
The spotlight panel on technology was, well, when I was hungry so I didn't pay much attention. Hangry Steve!
|SVH did not say anything that to be bleeped|
The rest of the afternoon was a blur as jet lag and conference fatigue hit me pretty hard. The one panel that made an impact was with the Prime Minister of Macedonia (Republic of North Macedonia), which, fresh off of making an agreement with Greece about the name thing, is now in line to become NATO's next new member. We then saw a movie dedicated to the retiring Jamie Shea, an institution at NATO. It was roast-ish and funny. And then he talked and was funny.
|the dinner-less reception|
So, what are my big reactions to the news of the day and how did I answer the various questions hurled in the scrum:
- Despite the efforts of Trudeau to brand Canadian efforts as big and super special, they are mostly branding and not much that is new AND Trump doesn't care anyway.
- the 2% thing was just Trump's way to rant at NATO and try to flip tables, which was underlined by his brainstorm to suggest spending 4%
- that in our room and probably the big room, Trudeau won more fans than Trump, but the relative power meant that Trump was still more influential. Still, Trudeau did do a good job of carrying the banner of the rules based
international order, something folks were desperate to see.
- the NATO communique identifying the areas of agreement came out late in the day (a day earlier than the last summit) and was about half the size of the last summit. Not a lot of super initiatives, but notable stuff--Macedonia being officially in line for membership, heaps of hostile text towards Russia, the new NATO training mission in Iraq, and some other stuff. Nothing as important as the enhanced forward presence in the Baltics like last time.