As soon as we stepped off of the bus at the NATO stop, two daunting buildings came into view- one the new NATO building, not yet ready for use, and the NATO building that has been used by NATO since its establishment in Brussels. Immediately, security came up to us to lead us to the security booth. We had to leave all electronic devices at the gate, so sadly (but understandably) there are limited pictures from the day. We were given visitor passes and then ushered into a conference room for our first speaker.
Our first speaker’s name is Allison Hart, and she is the Executive Officer of the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO. The first thing that she said was that we all must agree that everything that she and the next speaker said was strictly off of the record. Because of this, I cannot cover the exact things that were said and discussed; however, I will give a general overview. She laid out the structure of NATO and how decisions are made and actions are implemented. NATO is an organization where decisions must be made unanimously, meaning more times than not it takes extensive talks and debates before any actions are decided upon as a body. She also reiterated the point that the well known Article 5 has only been used once, and that was after the 9/11 attacks. Surprisingly, the United States was not the one to ask to invoke the article. Rather the other nations were the ones asking to help. Additionally, the initial help was not to begin attacking in the middle east, but to come to the United States and assist with securing the air space. After outlining NATO’s structure and past actions, we were able to ask questions about her opinions on current events. As stated previously, I cannot state her responses, but topics that were covered include the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Crimea, and cybersecurity.
The next speaker’s name is Diego Ruiz Palmer, and he is the Special Advisor to the Secretary General and a part of both the Economics and Security Assessments Unit and the Emerging Security Challenges Division. He went over his roles in all three parts, as well as covering some of NATO’s history in decision making. His views on why NATO sometimes chose to not take action or could not agree on an action to take were insightful. He too left time for questions, and the class mainly asked questions regarding his role on the Emerging Security Challenges Division. NATO has to think both in the short term and long term when it comes to this division to ensure that they will be prepared for any risk that could come their way, including things like nuclear deterrence.
Both speakers engaged all of the students and provided us with information and insight that we could have not gotten anywhere else.