Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, widely seen as the faraway front runner to replace Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as NATO secretary-general, came under fire this weekend from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AP:


“We don’t want NATO to be damaged and we don’t think it is right that you as prime minister should be damaged in this process,” Erdogan said he told Fogh Rasmussen. He did not say when the conversation took place. Turkish President Abdullah Gul had said Friday that Ankara had nothing against Fogh Rasmussen and described him as “one of the most successful prime ministers” in Europe. Turkish officials however, said there was no contradiction in the two leaders’ stances. A spokesman for the president said Gul’s statement was not an endorsement of Fogh Rasmussen’s candidacy. He said Gul was merely trying to explain “that Turkey does not have any prejudices against anyone.” […] “There has been a serious reaction in countries with Muslim populations over the [2006] cartoons crisis. Now, these countries are calling us and saying ‘no way,'” Erdogan said to explain the pressure he is under from Muslim countries to try to block Fogh Rasmussen’s candidacy. Turkey also strongly criticized Fogh Rasmussen during the cartoons crisis. Asked whether his words should be read as a veto threat, Erdogan said he has told Fogh Rasmussen that “as a party leader, I cannot contradict the principles of my party. You can imagine what it would mean.” Turkey has the right to a veto, but decisions on the next NATO secretary-general are usually taken by consensus. It would be difficult for Turkey to oppose Fogh Rasmussen if the 25 other member states back him. Erdogan also criticized Fogh Rasmussen for his unwillingness to stop broadcasts by a Kurdish satellite television station, Roj TV, which Turkey accuses of being a propaganda machine for Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

This just further illustrates what has been obvious for quite some time: there’s a wide values gap between Turkey and Western Europe. Turkey has been part of NATO since 1952 and is a key bridge between Christendom and Islam and between West and East. Its concerns, certainly, shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. At the same time, however, the stated goal of the Alliance is “A Europe whole and free.” Erdogan seems to forget about the second half of that equation.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council. 

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