From the New York Times: “I am here as a reformer,” Mr. [Anders Fogh] Rasmussen, 56, said in an interview. “I want to modernize, transform and reform so that NATO adapts to the security environment for the 21st century.” That means, he said: “In a rapidly changing security environment, we have to make sure that NATO is able to make rapid moves. Otherwise NATO will not maintain its relevance in the future…”

[T]his plain-speaking Dane already got his way three weeks ago, over, of all things, the dinner arrangements for a NATO defense ministers meeting in Slovakia. Mr. Rasmussen suggested that he and the ministers, but not the ambassadors, as was customary, attend the dinner. For the ambassadors, it was a huge snub. This was about protocol and status.

“There was a near revolt,” said one NATO diplomat. “At least 17 ambassadors kicked up a fuss about being excluded. It may seem petty, but it was about Rasmussen making his mark and trying to change things and the ambassadors defending their turf. We really thought the sec-gen would have to climb down. But he didn’t. He simply said, ‘Fine, I’ll phone up the capitals and see what they think.”’

Those phone calls never needed to be made. The ambassadors blinked…

Then there is the sheer size of the military command structure, which has 13,000 personnel scattered across Western Europe at NATO’s many military bases. When France rejoined the integrated military structure in April, it was hard pressed to send 900 top-notch military staff to the various NATO commands. It needed them at home. Mr. Rasmussen said slimming down the military staff and all the NATO military headquarters “was included in my plans for transformation.”

“Of course, the military command structures should be reduced,” an alliance diplomat said. “Every nation agrees. But when it comes to taking the decisions, no country wants to close a base. You need a strong will at the top to make this a big issue.” (photo: Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)