When I served as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO in the early 1970s, one of my counterparts in Brussels was a distinguished Belgian diplomat, Ambassador André de Staercke. As the dean of NATO’s North Atlantic Council, de Staercke had earned the respect of his peers. Then sixty years old, the elegant and worldly ambassador was helpful to me, a forty-year-old American in my first diplomatic post and who was decidedly neither elegant nor worldly.

In earlier days, de Staercke had been a friend of Winston Churchill. During World War II, de Staercke and the British prime minister once flew together over the city of Dunkirk, the site of the famous 1940 battle against the Nazis that led to the desperate evacuation of ...

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