“Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, appears set to become the new secretary-general of Nato, following a private agreement by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany to back his candidacy,” James Blitz reports for the FT.
In a move that would place Mr Rasmussen at the centre of the west’s drive to win the war in Afghanistan, Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, and Angela Merkel, German chancellor, appear to have agreed that the 56-year-old Dane should become Nato’s chief diplomat. The post has traditionally gone to a European. Diplomats said last night that the US was likely to confirm its backing for Mr Rasmussen ahead of Nato’s 60th anniversary summit next month in Strasbourg and Kehl.
Mr Rasmussen has been Danish prime minister since 2001 and still has 2½ years of his term to run. He appears to have beaten off a wide range of candidates for the post, among them Radek Sikorksi, the Polish foreign minister. Though he was considered qualified, Mr Sikorski’s appointment would have irritated the Kremlin, something Nato is keen to avoid as it seeks to put relations with Moscow on a better footing. Others tipped as potential successors to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the current secretary-general, were Jonas Gahr Stoere, Norway’s foreign minister; Des Browne, former British defence secretary; and Peter Mackay, Canadian defence minister.
One of Mr Rasmussen’s strongest cards in getting the job was his decision to send his country’s troops to serve alongside the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Denmark has some 700 combat troops in Afghanistan.
Spiegel ‘s Julian Isherwood adds a bit of anecdotal evidence: “These have included reports that his governing Liberal Party’s crown prince — Finance Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen — has purchased 10 new suits and shirts in order to be as statesmanlike as possible if and when he assumes the mantle of prime minister as Fogh Rasmussen’s succesor.”
A dissenting report comes from NYT‘s Stephen Castle, who notes that US Vice President Joe Biden has said that the United States is still lobbying for MacKay which Castle takes as “a sign that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, who has been viewed as the favorite to become secretary general, may not have sufficient support among NATO’s 26 members.” He adds that Turkey is strongly opposed to Rasmussen.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.