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The NATO headquarters are shown in this undated photo.
The NATO headquarters are shown in this undated photo. (NATO)

NATO is unlikely to name its new headquarters building after the late Sen. John McCain, the alliance’s top official said, citing a lack of precedent.

“NATO doesn’t have a tradition of naming buildings after politicians,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday during a visit to Washington. “You know, we are 29 allies with a lot of presidents, kings, heads of state and government, so we haven’t introduced that tradition.”

After McCain’s Aug. 25 death from brain cancer, there were tributes from across the political spectrum in the United States and in Europe, where there was a push to name NATO’s $1.4 billion Brussels headquarters after the senator.

The effort began when British parliamentarian Tom Tugendhat called on NATO to recognize McCain’s advocacy for the trans-Atlantic alliance. Then three former NATO secretary-generals — Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Javier Solana and George Robertson — followed with similar calls.

“I’m certain that we will be able to honor John McCain, but not necessarily through naming a building,” Stoltenberg said. “And actually, we honor John McCain every day through the fact that we stand together in NATO and deliver a strong trans-Atlantic deterrence and defense.”

Pushing to rename NATO’s headquarters after McCain could have made for an awkward situation for Stoltenberg, who likely would have needed the backing of U.S. President Donald Trump if all allies were to agree on a name for the headquarters. Trump, a critic of both McCain and NATO itself, has questioned the value of the alliance and made threats to withdraw the United States from the body.

vandiver.john@stripes.comTwitter: @john_vandiver

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