There is a new sheriff patrolling the North Atlantic and he’s called Mr. Rasmussen! A career politician, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has steadily moved up through Danish politics to lead the country since 2001. He has proven a very skilled diplomat on the world stage since, being well-educated in the minority government tradition the Danes enjoy. But who is this new sheriff and what can we expect from his leadership of NATO in the years to come?
Mr. Rasmussen has been pegged for the top NATO job since the Irish declined to ratify the Lisbon Treaty that would have created an EU President, which he was already pegged for as well. The man has serious friends in the EU it seems! To be handed the NATO job however, he clearly needed powerful US support as well. Oddly enough Denmark, a moderate EU nation, has provided military troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo during Mr. Rasmussen’s leadership. This has clearly boosted Denmark's stock in the Pentagon and shown Rasmussen to be skilled at making tough political decisions and surviving the voter fallout. Reports have Obama directly convincing the Turks who all but spit on Rasmussen in national cartoons for not showing more respect. Mr. Rasmussen clearly has extensive NATO member support on both sides of the Atlantic heading into the job.
The very recent April 3 meeting of NATO has provided some early returns for the challenges that Rasmussen will face. Minor troop increases to Afghanistan along with equipment and reconstruction money have been promised. However the truth is that America is taking over the direct control and command of the Afghanistan war. They are bumping up troop commitments 50% and widening the scope of the engagement to include the Taliban strongholds in northern Pakistan. NATO’s role in Afghanistan is clearly going to be in support of the US action, a friendly face to maintain law and order while rebuilding some key infrastructure, which is NATO’s specialty. It is fairly evident that NATO does not yet have the full ability to conduct a major war against a determined enemy. It’s not that NATO has lost Afghanistan, nor the member countries' armies performed poorly. They have fought to a stalemate due to a lack of political will, not a surprise given the amazing Afghanistan history of resistance to invaders.