NATO's 70th turned out to be less like a birthday party and more a Thanksgiving dinner for a large dysfunctional family: Not all of them got on, a few snide remarks were made, but in the end everyone seemed to accept they're stuck with each other.
After a tumultuous buildup in which French President Emmanuel Macron had warned that the alliance might not reach its 75th anniversary intact, and Turkey threatened to hold a key planning document hostage, even President Donald Trump came to NATO's defense.
"We had a very successful meeting," said an evidently relieved Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, citing the unity she had seen among the alliance's 29 leaders. "So I'm very pleased."
The brief final declaration made few concessions to Macron's demands for upending NATO's priorities and focus, or his call for re-engagement with Russia. The alliance was open to dialogue with Moscow, according to the communiqué, but only "when Russia's actions make that possible." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's threat to block the planning document didn't materialize.
There were multiple opportunities for the two-day meeting to go awry, starting with Trump's Twitter account. But absorbed by impeachment proceedings back home, the president mainly celebrated his own success in helping to make NATO stronger by driving up European defense budgets. He also joined in rebuffing Macron's pre-summit description of the alliance as "brain dead."
Wednesday's roundtable discussion passed without the brawl some had feared over NATO's future and purpose, 30 years after the end of the Cold War that it was created to counter. The declaration set out a focus on new technological and cyber threats, while for the first time mentioning China as a challenge and extending the alliance's remit into space.
Macron and Merkel, whose relationship has become increasingly difficult, even had a two-hour makeup dinner Tuesday night.
"In like a lion, out like a lamb," Alexander Vershbow, a former NATO deputy secretary-general and U.S. Ambassador to Russia, said of the two-day meeting. Macron's concerns were really about the reliability of U.S. leadership, following Trump's October decision to greenlight Turkey's military incursion into Syria without consulting allies, according to Vershow.
He added that these concerns were shared by others, too, but that they concluded NATO unity "was too important to put at risk."
On Wednesday, Trump canceled a post-summit news conference to fly home, saying he'd already held enough press opportunities and had nothing left to say.