Page 83 - The Chapka 2016
P. 83

 Extra Regimental Employment
 When the annual mail shot requesting articles for The Chap- ka arrived this year I did seriously consider filing it in the all too difficult drawer but my conscience got the better of me and so here we go.
Perhaps the imminent arrival of Gen Sir James Everard as the next Deputy SACEUR had something to do with spurring me on, but it’s also that since arriving in Brussels in March 2016 there is much to report. Brussels has been subjected to terrorist attack, the United Kingdom has chosen to BREXIT, we’ve had a NATO Summit in Warsaw, President Trump has become the 45th President of the United States and the United Kingdom has now forward deployed troops in two NATO Alliance mem- ber states, Estonia and Poland, on the border with Russia – life has been busy and unpredictable to say the least!
As NATO approaches its 70th anniversary in 2019, it seems its role is as important as ever but at the same time a world away from the ‘Cold War’ times many of the readership will remember with a touch of nostalgia. NATO’s relevance is often questioned by the media, particularly with President Trump’s insistence that the European nations do more to meet their fair share of the costs, but nations remain keen to join and there is a growing level of interest in partnership. The United Kingdom remains at the forefront of NATO activity and our contribution to opera- tions in the Middle East, the central Mediterranean and now in the Baltic region is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the Alliance.
This year is also of great significance for the headquarters as it will finally move across the road (literally) to its new home.
The accompanying picture gives you an idea of what the new building is like but I have to say that only in the ‘flesh’ does its scale really come across. It’s vast but it needs to be to accom- modate the 28 (soon to be 29) nations’ delegations of Military and International Staff that make the organisation run smoothly in support of the Military Committee and, ultimately, the North Atlantic Council.
The work in Brussels and just down the road in Mons, where DSACEUR is based at Strategic Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), is fascinating, fraught with difficulty and a good degree of frustration at times, as the organisation strives to achieve consensus across the Alliance. The end result, however, is very rewarding and not least because, more often than not, the United Kingdom plays a key role in shaping the debate. Post the BREXIT decision, our role has not manifestly changed, but there’s no escaping the altered dynamic with several of our key European partners – on a positive note it makes for lively dis- cussion and means that the United Kingdom’s Delegation can experience at first hand some of the national stereotypes!
Brussels may not be top of your city-break visit list, but I do strongly recommend that you look beyond the Clarkson-esque descriptors of grey, flat, obnoxious, bureaucratic – I could go on but you get the picture! Think instead of great food, superb beer and a truly cosmopolitan atmosphere and you’ll not go far wrong.
Dispatches from NATO

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