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I spent several years covering the United Nations, where there is a lot of pomp and circumstance that comes with convening world leaders.

But in small rooms, hallways and nearby cafes, there is also constant behind-the-scenes work that arguably plays a more important role in determining policy than any official speech.

There’s a lot at stake with the NATO summit in Lithuania, set to wrap up on Wednesday. While Sweden got a green light for admittance at this year’s meeting, Ukraine’s application remains in limbo.

Former U.S. diplomat and Tufts University public diplomacy scholar Tara Sonenshine explains in today’s lead story what is behind summits like the NATO meeting, and why the events tend to go far beyond a photo-op for politicians.

“From the logistical advance teams that prepare the groundwork for presidential travel to the protocol officers ensuring that handshakes or hugs are timed for photography, every detail matters both publicly and privately at these sorts of affairs,” she writes.

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Amy Lieberman

Politics + Society Editor

President Joe Biden and other world leaders are together at the 2023 NATO summit in Lithuania on July 11, 2023. Pauline Peleckis/Getty Images

Ukraine is the hot topic at the NATO summit – the most important work is all in the details happening behind the scenes

Tara Sonenshine, Tufts University

The NATO summit is a chance for world leaders to hash out difficult topics, like the war in Ukraine – and for the US to show off its leadership, writes a former diplomat.

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