Under a sunny spring sky, NATO on Thursday moved into brand new, shiny headquarters projecting a modern, forward-looking image that counters the characterization that U.S. President Donald Trump and other critics of the alliance have previously made of the organization.
Amid the anxiety felt by some European leaders about the future, some see Thursday’s NATO summit — where discussions were driven largely by the latest spate of terrorist attacks in Europe — as a possibility for a new direction for the alliance.
The sprawling, giant, steel-and-glass complex’s wings are meant to resemble interlocking fingers. It drew the admiration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who lightened the mood among leaders otherwise anxious about what the U.S. leader might say at this meeting.
“I never asked what the new NATO headquarters cost. I refuse to do that. But it is beautiful,” Trump said, drawing laughs and smiles from leaders.
With a price tag of $1.2 billion, the complex is rich with symbols of the alliance’s history and its future.
Merkel dedicates Berlin Wall memorial
At a ceremony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dedicated a Berlin Wall memorial composed of two sections of reinforced concrete barrier — a symbol of a free Europe reunited after the Cold War.
A memorial of twisted beams from the Twin Towers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York is a reminder that combating terrorism has emerged as NATO’s big purpose in the 21st century.
It also had important symbolism regarding America’s commitment to defend its allies if any one of them is attacked, a cornerstone of the NATO treaty.
Leaders agree to set up intelligence sharing unit
“President Trump dedicated the 9/11 and Article 5 memorial — a powerful reminder of NATO solidarity and importance of our common fight against terrorism,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
Stoltenberg praised Trump’s current budget proposal, with its substantial increase in military spending, as “the strongest possible sign of commitment to our alliance.”
Leaders agreed to move ahead with an action plan to fight terrorism and set up an intelligence sharing unit.
The atmospherics were better than expected and that, analysts say, was perhaps the biggest accomplishment.
“I think at this meeting the mood may have improved,” said Judy Dempsey, a security analyst at the Carnegie Europe research organization in Brussels. “Europeans were very, very nervous about him coming. He’s here, the sun is shining,” Dempsey told VOA.
The building, she said, reflects that NATO is here to stay.
Montenegro to become 29th member
The complex speaks of an organization in good shape and with a resolve to continue efforts against threats in places like Afghanistan, where NATO leaders are soon to decide on boosting troop levels for the training of Afghan forces.
The subject of Russia came up, with the U.S. leader listing it among the top security threats.
The alliance continues to grow. Leaders on Thursday welcomed the president of Montenegro, whose country is soon to become NATO’s 29th member.