Meetings at NATO can look like a series of speeches at the table by foreign ministers. With the Secretary General and 28 countries at the table, if each one speaks only once for five minutes, it can take nearly 2 ½ hours to discuss one subject. And the reality can be even longer. But that is just one layer of the event. Another is the work going on around the margins of the room and in the corridors, as senior officials hammer out deals on behalf of their governments.
At one point, working through a particularly difficult issue, some 20 senior diplomats from as many countries were crammed into the ante-room off the main conference room trying out wording to chart a way forward, necks craned to look at one piece of paper in the center of the pod. When they failed to reach a conclusion, they flooded into the main room, as one group, making a great ruckus. The Secretary General then convened ministers-only to negotiate directly – the foreign ministers themselves doing the hard work of diplomacy. Some 200 senior officials milled about in the hallway trying to think up ideas.
In the end, the ministers broke for lunch, wording was formulated, and after agreement was reached, the Secretary General delivered the news to the media.
Another step forward for NATO. A better policy for having been debated. And another example of the United States and European allies working brick by brick to rebuild a stronger, more unified transatlantic community. That’s diplomacy.
Read Ambassador Volker's previous entry about the Secretary's NATO meeting.