(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) The explosions in Belgium's capital Brussels all happened within a few kilometers of the area that is home to the headquarters of NATO and the EU the European continent’s core institutions a fact not lost on European leaders or on the United States.
“Through these attacks in Brussels it was all of Europe that was hit” wrote French President Francois Hollande on Twitter.
Hollande like other European leaders Tuesday offered support to Belgium’s government. In televised remarks shortly after the attacks the French leader said “The war against terrorism has to be led by the whole of Europe.” U.S. President Barack Obama who was in Havana said "We will do whatever is necessary for our friend Belgium to bring those who are responsible to justice." He said the U.S. stands in solidarity with Belgium "for the outrageous attacks against innocent people." Later he spoke by phone with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to offer his condolences on behalf of the American people. The White House says he reaffirmed the United States' "steadfast support" for Belgium and offered assistance investigating the attacks and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
At least nine Americans are among the wounded including one Air Force service member. Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff on U.S. government buildings. In a televised statement from NATO headquarters in Brussels Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO stands with its ally Belgium "on this dark day.” He said this “cowardly” act with a “heavy” and “tragic” human toll is an attack on democratic values and open societies adding that “terrorism will not defeat democracy and take away our freedoms.” European Union Council President Donald Tusk said he was appalled by the attacks and offered Europe's support. Tusk said that “these attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence” adding that the EU “will fulfill its role to help Brussels Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat” they are facing. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini cut short a news conference in Jordan Tuesday after saying that “today is a difficult day.” Following an emergency Cabinet meeting in London British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the blasts and said Europe should stand together against the terror threat. "We will never let these terrorists win" Cameron said at his Downing Street office.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff Peter Altmaier called for solidarity with Belgium writing on Twitter that “terrorists will never win.” He added that “our European values [are] much stronger than hate violence terror!” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the West's politics of “double standards” have led to terrorist attacks and that frozen diplomatic relations between NATO and Russia have slowed the fight against terrorism. The Kremlin however offered its condolences and expressed solidarity with Belgium after the attacks Tuesday. Belgian vulnerability The attacks exposed Belgium’s long-known vulnerability to terrorist attacks. Official estimates last year said nearly 500 young Muslim residents have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join extremist groups making it the European country with the highest number of foreign fighters per capita. Belgium’s small size has also meant that it has fewer anti-terrorism resources compared to larger nations like the United States Britain or France. In addition to a lack of resources observers say institutional fragmentation and poor intelligence sharing have hampered Belgium's ability to counter terrorism. “Brussels itself has 19 municipalities and six different police forces which presents an obvious operational challenge” Benoit Gomis a specialist on terrorism and European defense at Chatham House in London told VOA. Tuesday’s attacks could spark a new unified push to help Belgium boost its security infrastructure. In a statement Tuesday EU leaders said they “are determined to face this threat together with all necessary means.”
“Above all it will be critical for the EU to substantively improve intelligence sharing among member states” Florian Otto told VOA. Otto notes measures were already agreed after last year’s Paris attacks which were largely organized in Belgium. Analysts say Tuesday’s attacks could see the idea of a joint EU intelligence unit put back on the agenda. Other areas include counter-radicalization efforts and combined operations to combat arms trafficking. Such a coordinated approach could trigger opposition in some European governments that are already wary of EU overreach – one of the issues driving the desire among some in Britain to break away from the grouping. Governments across Europe on Tuesday announced measures to boost security at borders and transit points. Hundreds of Belgians carried candles and flowers to a nighttime vigil Tuesday night at the Place de la Bourse in central Brussels. European landmarks including the Eiffel Tower in Paris Berlin's Brandenburg Gate Rome's Trevi Fountain and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates lit up with the colors of the Belgian flag. In the United States New York's World Trade Center was lit in the black yellow and red of the Belgian flag. The Empire State Building which usually marks holidays and significant events with colored lighting remained dark Tuesday in tribute to the victims.