He and they travel to Brussels, weighing the options available and trying to predict the actions of one man.
A man whose words will not be heard but whose actions have the power to drown out theirs.
They have some indication of President Vladimir Putin’s intent and as they prepare for a day of summitry, some indication of his thought process. That is of course, if they are to assume that his spokesperson still speaks for him and knows his thoughts. In these days that may not be a valid assumption.
Either way on CNN on Tuesday, Dmitry Peskov, a long term Putin ally who has been sanctioned alongside the president, refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons if Russia faced an “existential threat”.
He quoted Russia’s National Security Concept as grounds.
The question I doubt he nor anyone but President Putin can define is what constitutes that “existential threat”. Is it still to Russia, its land and people or to its leader and his power?
If the assessment is the latter, the threat level to be assessed by NATO has risen significantly.
If the threat is defeat or even a perception of weakness the need to use nuclear strength becomes ever more tempting for the Russian leader.
What is guiding the decisions over intervention in the Ukraine war which are being made by Western leaders? US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports live from Washington
Without a win in Ukraine he risks becoming a defeated monster with a nuclear weapon.
The challenge for NATO is trying to predict what he will do to avert that. President Putin is not entirely unpredictable, he finds his glory where others would find shame. The past decades would suggest he has not ruled all these years to face defeat without using every weapon in his arsenal.
Their quandary is the balance of prevention and provocation.
Listen to the latest analysis on the Ukraine crisis in ITV News' podcast: