Alexander isn’t happy
In the usual clash between guns and butter, the former is winning. In Europe there is a wall between those who work and those who don’t, between the Germans and the Greeks, between the Calvinist work ethic in the north and the profligate south.
A sniper patrols the roof of NATO headquarters, in the stinging cold of December. On the ground, among the flags at risk of being ripped by the gusts of wind, stands a large fir tree covered in Christmas lights.
The guard on the roof and his colleagues at the building’s entrance have never been tested for real. The 1979 assassination attempt by the Baader-Meinhof gang on NATO commander Alexander Haig failed because the manually detonated explosive was late by a fraction of a second. If radical Islamist terrorists decided to strike at NATO’s home and transform Brussels into Beirut, the result could be deadly. Brussels has a large Muslim population and is full of signs like “Salon Merhaba” and “ahlan wasahlan.” The infrastructure for carrying out an attack planned in Kabul or Tehran exists.
Inside, at a press briefing, the show is in the hands of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister and now NATO secretary general. Both are experienced, eloquent and well versed on the subject. Rasmussen and Clinton are there to wrap up the conference of NATO foreign ministers and to launch the heads-of-state meeting in Chicago in five months. They unveil the summit’s logo, the skyline above Lake Michigan. It’s the view that Al Capone, Michael Jordan and Clinton took in, the latter during her childhood. And for a while it was the view taken in by one of the two men who have been a major source of frustration in Clinton’s life − Barack Obama.
The two are asked about Russia, which in its Soviet incarnation was NATO’s raison d’etre, and which has since become a tolerable nuisance on the fringes of the alliance. It stirs things up whenever Vladimir Putin feels like it. Russia doesn’t like the missile defense system that NATO is putting up in the east, near it but aimed at Iran. Is it genuine anger or a bargaining chip? It’s too early to tell. When Clinton makes accusations of election tampering in Russia, with righteous anger and a poker face, the Russians refrain from mentioning Chicago’s reputation in this regard.
In a nearby hall, on January 18-19, the commanders of NATO-member militaries will meet, along with their counterparts from Mediterranean and Gulf states. Among the invitees is Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. This is a precious opportunity to talk with senior officers from Egypt, Turkey and other countries, as well as with the NATO staff, who are exuding friendship toward the IDF, not the policies of the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government. The chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Adm. Giampaolo di Paola, a friend of former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, returned to Rome last week to become defense minister in the government of technocrats running the country.
But in the usual clash between guns and butter, the former is winning. In Europe there is a wall between those who work and those who don’t, between the Germans and the Greeks, between the Calvinist work ethic in the north and the profligate south.
“Have you heard about Alexander the good?” Europeans are asked by a Dubai-based bank in a magazine advertisement, against a background of a horseman from the army of Alexander the Great, who responds in the negative. We need Alexander the Great, not Alexander the good. In Dubai and the other Gulf states there are concerns about the impact of the shocks to the European economy, but no less about a weakened NATO. They are concerned that the promise of a security umbrella against Iran will blow away in a wind that is even less powerful than the one blowing in Brussels in December.