Nato is not only rolling out the red carpet for US President Donald Trump in Brussels Thursday, but the military alliance, which Trump has declared obsolete, has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth $1.12 billion.
In recent months, member nations have strained to show they are ramping up defence spending as Trump has demanded. And while they agree with the chief of the alliance’s most powerful member that Nato can do more to fight terrorism, they say it can be achieved with more of the same; training and mentoring troops in Afghanistan, and equipping local forces in Iraq so they can better fight the Islamic State group themselves.
“They’ll only talk about what he cares about, so really he should come out of this meeting feeling as though Nato responds to him,” said Kristine Berzina, Nato analyst at the German Marshall Fund think tank. “At least that’s what they hope here.”
With #NATOmeeting only two days away, it's a good time to brush up on the 10 things you need to know about #NATO: https://t.co/uwya9xPebS pic.twitter.com/1I8Oh9LnT7 — US Mission to NATO (@USNATO) May 23, 2017
Putting some meat on the pledge, the leaders will agree to prepare action plans by the end of the year, plotting how to reach 2 percent over the next seven years, and show how they will use the money.
Only five members currently meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, Poland and the US, which spends more on defence than all the other allies combined.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, has purged around 11,000 military personnel from its armed forces since last July’s thwarted coup. Hundreds of western-educated senior officers were removed from posts at Nato, severely weakening the army.
Yet it’s a subject that is almost taboo at Nato headquarters; a national affair to be dealt with internally.
Tensions have also mounted between Erdogan and Merkel since Germany offered asylum to some of the officers. Belgium has publicly warned against any pro-Erdogan rallies during his visit.
Outside the heavily guarded security perimeter near the city’s airport and in downtown Brussels, peace groups have planned rallies of their own. But, with the Manchester bombing still fresh, Belgian authorities aren’t taking any chances. The country’s Crisis Centre says it’s carried out a careful security threat assessment.