The race for the position of Secretary General of NATO has almost come to an end. Until recently, a Pole, a Czech, and a Canadian were competing for the spot. However, disqualifying factors against all three of them allowed a new candidate to enter the race. The new candidate is without doubt the best candidate: Solomon Passy of Bulgaria.
Passy was the founder of the first Atlanticist organization in Eastern Europe, the Bulgarian Atlantic Club, in 1990. He subsequently became Foreign Minister of Bulgaria. In 2004 he was the chairman-in-office of the OSCE. However, as Passy’s victory is far from certain, the best way to win the post is by presenting himself as a compromise candidate. That means coming across as an Eastern European free of the divisive tendencies of other Eastern European candidates, who might threaten to alienate the Western European core from the alliance. Passy, is not just better than other candidates in terms of the qualities he possesses, but he is also the one candidate who has a deep knowledge of the meaning of Atlanticism. He is the one who is most aware of what NATO was intended to be, and what it can become.
Passy's strength: A deeper understanding of Atlanticism
In post-communist Europe, the Bulgarian Atlanticists stand out as the ones who managed to create the only genuinely new "new Atlanticism.” They developed their ideas independent from NATO and reconstructed a large part of the underlying pre-NATO Atlanticism, but in an updated form. They saw in Atlanticism an honest and successful internationalism, which could be used to prevent a return to nationalism and could replace the failed Communist internationalism in an era when interdependence was on the rise. Thus, they have managed to free their Atlanticism from Cold War assumptions, in a way that even NATO would envy. NATO's official policy line is that it no longer views Russia as an enemy. However, as its databases and raison d'etre date only as far back as 1949, NATO has often had a hard time convincing itself of this.
"Atlanticism" is often perceived as nothing more than an anti-Russian orientation, or when put even more crudely, a pro-American or pro-NATO orientation. This is not the case for Bulgarians and this is what differentiates them from everyone else who has gone by the name of Atlanticist.
Weaknesses of the other candidates: Disqualifying negatives
The “Disqualifying negatives” is the underlying factor, which makes the Bulgarian candidate the most fit to lead NATO in the present era. Bulgarian Atlanticism trumps both Eastern European Atlanticisms, which are steeped into Cold War era presents and Western European Atlanticisms, which suffer from never-ending disputes on burden sharing, ESPD development and, the exact balance in relation between the EU and NATO. Both Eastern and Western European Atlanticism are backward looking. The urgency of the tasks facing the Western alliance demands that the new Secretary General is a forward-looking one. The culture of Bulgarian Atlanticism is the only one suited to produce the right person for the job.
To summarize, the need to move beyond old internecine disputes disqualifies Western European candidates. The Canadian one is ruled out due to nationality, the Catholic Eastern European candidates are ruled out by the need to defeat Cold War mentalities. That leaves only one candidate: the Bulgarian, Solomon Passy.
Dr. Ira Louis Straus is coordinator of the American branch, Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO.