NATO’s 28 heads of state and government meet in Warsaw this Friday and Saturday in what has become a biannual event, whether or not the times demand it. Until Britain on June 23 voted to leave the European Union—the so-called Brexit—the NATO summit would have been pretty routine. It would have been limited to building on past decisions, though some with major consequences for European security, but it wouldn’t have set out in new directions. But now the summit will of necessity be anything but routine—or it will fail the test of history.
Brexit, the wholly unpredicted vote of the British electorate to leave the European Union, faces Europe with its greatest political challenge in half a century. Less headlined is that Europe looks to be facing the biggest threat to its security over a like period. The NATO summit opening tomorrow (July 8) will be dominated by a single topic: how to defend the alliance’s Baltic members against Russian attack. The gathering in Warsaw will be the most consequential for NATO since the ending of the Cold War.
When Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness greeted Queen Elizabeth on a visit to Belfast earlier this week, the atmosphere in the room was oddly warm, bordering on jovial. “Are you well?” asked the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister McGuinness. Now in his mid-sixties and white-haired, he is remembered by many as the youthful, curly red-haired, fierce Irishman at the helm of the staunchly republican, nationalist Sinn Fein party and its militant wing, the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In a journalistic life that began as teenager I have covered some mega stories: from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Kennedy assassination to Watergate and 9/11 among others. Perhaps, then, it is not a surprise that one story had slipped out of my memory chamber, only to be revived by Brexit.
Even Donald Trump seemed sobered by the overnight verdict of the British people when the Republican presidential contender flew into Scotland to count his golf courses on Friday and spoke blandly and in relatively measured tones to the media at Turnberry. "Basically they took back their country."
© COPYRIGHT THE EUROPEAN INSTITUTE 2009
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