Daily Archives: April 3, 2009

Gideon Rachman

This is Nato’s 60th anniversary and the alliance is engaged in a proper war in Afghanistan. So you might expect the mood here in Strasbourg to be a mixture of the sombre and the celebratory. Instead, diplomats and bureaucrats are fussing about their usual concerns – protocol and security.

Nato officials are aghast that their secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has had to beg for an invite to tonight’s official banquet. Apparently the French originally intended to exclude him, arguing that the meeting should be heads-of-state only. Scheffer had to jump through all sorts of humiliating hoops to make it to his own organisation’s birthday party. Also Carla Bruni has been a bit lazy about looking after her fellow spouses. By tradition, since the summit is taking place in France, Mrs Sarko should have acted as chief animatrice. But Nato people claim that that she has barely lifted a finger.

The most interesting story is the controversy over who is likely to be the next Nato secretary-general. Apparently it may not, after all, be Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish PM. The Turkish opposition to him is real, because he was prime minister at the time of the Danish cartoons row. Nato officials first reaction was that the Turks might not be being serious; or that they were just being awkward and could be talked round. But that thinking is changing. One senior official whispers that the Turks might have a point after all. Denmark’s embassy in Pakistan was burnt to the ground during the cartoons’ row – and Rasmussen was attacked for allegedly haughty behaviour. With Nato so heavily involved in that part of the world, people are beginning to think he might not be the most tactful appointment.

Some might regard that line of reasoning as cowardly, others would see it as pragmatic. Whatever, the search is on for new candidates. Jonas Store, the Norwegian foreign minister, is the new name doing the rounds. Read more