On January 5 the procedure of new NATO Secretary General entering the office took place.
The New Secretary General is Dutch diplomat Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who was the Head of the Foreign Ministry of Netherlands. His appointment was approved by all the NATO members at the meeting on September 22, 2003.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer inherited complicated problems from his predecessor George Robertson. Last year contradictions aroused within the alliance. These contradictions appeared long ago, but the war in Iraq increased disagreement between “old Europe” –France and Germany, and the USA and its ally Great Britain.
However, not only NATO, but also European Union can be divided into two camps – one of supporters for France and Germany, another of supporters for the USA (the latter are the states of Central and Eastern who recently joined NATO). During the last year Paris and Berlin initiated the idea of forming the united Army for Europe. According to the proponents of this idea, it does not contradict the purposes of NATO. However both Washington and NATO leaders have a different opinion. They were able to postpone implementing the process of forming united European Army, but this idea is still alive.
Under these conditions, appointing Scheffer is a compromising move. On the one hand, this Dutch diplomat has always been the proponent of united Europe. On the other hand, he supports further improving the alliance with the USA. In addition, the new Secretary General is well aware of work within the alliance structures ( in 1980s Jaap de Hoop Scheffer worked in the Dutch Mission of NATO).
The question arises about the course of relations between NATO and Russia during the new Secretary General. Certainly they depend not only on the personality of the NATO Head. However, George Robertson was able to smooth out the crisis in the relations between NATO and Russia resulted from the beginning of bombing Yugoslavia.
Will Scheffer be able to maintain the relations with Russia not worse than his predecessor was able to do? There will be a more definite answer to this question after the meeting of the Secretary General with Permanent Representative of Russia in NATO Konstantin Totsky. The meeting is planned for January 12. Meanwhile, it is worth mentioning that while being OSCE Head Yap de Khoop Scheffer was one of the people responsible for breaking the settlement between Moldova and Pridnestrovie at the end of November 2003. Some media even wrote that he said on OSCE summit in Maastrikht on December 1-2 that “Russia has no allies”. At this summit Russia was criticized for deploying its troops in Pridnestrovie (and for having military bases in Georgia). Many experts came to the conclusion that Russia found itself in isolation…
Therefore it is quite possible that the relations between Russia and the alliance will not be unclouded. Meanwhile, they have always been far from ideal.