NATO prepares to choose a new Secretary-General
The United States has decided on its candidate for the post of NATO Secretary-General, endorsing Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Since Washington’s vote is crucial in confirming a nomination, the identity of NATO’s new Secretary-General is effectively determined.
The United States has decided on its candidate for the post of NATO Secretary-General, endorsing Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Since Washington’s vote is crucial in confirming a nomination, and the Danish prime minister has already secured support from the European heavyweights (Germany, Britain, France), the identity of NATO’s new Secretary-General is effectively determined. Other candidates from East European states, with markedly anti-Russian views, will have to wait. It seems the West has decided against annoying Moscow.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s term doesn’t expire until July, but the contest for NATO’s top civilian office has been under way for months. Candidates have included Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gar Stere, former British Defence Secretary Des Brown, and even Canadian Defence Minister Peter McKay, although the office of NATO Secretary-General is usually held by a European.
NATO’s newest member states in Eastern Europe were also eyeing the Secretary-General post. Bulgaria nominated former foreign affairs minister Solomon Paci, and Poland nominated Radislaw Sikorski.
Experts say that Washington’s choice of Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirms that the Obama administration intends to “press the reset button” in relations with Russia. The appointment of a East European candidate would have had a negative impact on NATO-Russia relations. NATO’s newest members, which have joined the bloc in the past decade, are in favor of expanding NATO further – to include Ukraine and Georgia, for a start. The Russian government has repeatedly emphasized that such a scenario would have irreversible consequences, demanding an “appropriate response” from Russia as NATO’s military infrastructure approaches its borders.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen takes a more restrained approach to NATO expansion, although in Europe he is considered a “pro-American” politician. The Danish prime minister was among the first to declare full support for the US war on international terrorism in 2001, and sanctioned large military contingents from Denmark to join forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Germany, Britain, and France have also endorsed Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s nomination. The remaining NATO members have no major objections to him – with the exception of Turkey, a Muslim country which hasn’t forgotten the Prophet Muhammed cartoon controversy of 2005. However, a NATO source told journalists that “Turkey probably wouldn’t want to take a stand in proud isolation on this issue.” The new Secretary-General is expected to be named officially at the April 3-4 NATO summit.