Issues Navigator

Global Challenges

Strategic Regions

Domestic Debates

Tag cloud

See All Tags

January 15, 2009 |  5 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

What Sikorski Brings to NATO

Tyson Barker: NATO is consistently looking for a means of reinventing itself to increase its relevance in the post-Cold War era. By boldly appointing Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski as the next Secretary General of NATO, the alliance can start the process in earnest.

The countries of North America and Europe are currently gearing up for what promises to be one of the most expectation-laden summits in NATO history. The 60th anniversary of NATO, to be held in Strasbourg-Kehl in April, will be rich in much anticipated milestones including the return of France to NATO's integrated military command, the reformulation of NATO's strategic concept,  and the first appearance of US President Barack Obama at the forum.

Hidden in the mix but not lost on close NATO watchers, is the appointment of the next Secretary General to the alliance. Current NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will step down in mid-2009 and his departure has prompted speculative murmurs of who might be in line to replace him. For months, conventional wisdom seemed to be coalescing around Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Rasmussen is a safe choice for the alliance as he is both an experienced statesman and well-networked politician with tested management credo within the European Union. In fact, his ability to triage between powerful players in Europe made him a likely candidate for the first EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (had the Lisbon Treaty come into force).

The dynamic Radoslow Sikorski is now emerging as a strong contender for the position. The steely-eyed young Sikorski is Poland's current Foreign Minister and was once considered a dark horse candidate. The suggestion is beginning to gain traction in political circles of Central Europe where prominent politicians, such as Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, have tried to get in front of the back-channel jockeying over the next NATO Secretary General. Mr. Tusk openly suggested that the time for a new member-state to hold the position of NATO Secretary General had come and Sikorski would be an ideal candidate. Opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has emphatically endorsed the suggestion arguing that it would be in the national interest of Poland to have Sikorski at the helm of NATO.

Speaking on the transatlantic security challenges at the Atlantic Council in late November 2008, Sikorski demonstrated that he can be a highly effective communicator to a Washington audience while conveying strong political point of view that is representative of his country and region. Sikorski's ties to the United States are numerous and complex. The 45 year old is married to AEI fellow and prominent foreign policy thinker Anne Applebaum, a Russoskeptic, self-declared Thatcherite and tepid backer of candidate Barack Obama.  

The real power of his nomination would however be for Europe itself. Though two decades have passed since the end of the Cold War and two years since last EU enlargement, the European appointees to major international institutions are still all from Western Europe, primarily from France (the WTO Secretary General is French; IMF Managing Director is French; the current NATO Secretary General is Dutch; the EU High Commissioner is Spanish; the EU Commission President is Portuguese; the ECB president is French).   

It is time for the US and the traditional states of Europe to open up positions of leadership to people of new backgrounds. Both pro-American and pro-European, Sikorski would represent a bold recasting of NATO and its role in the post-Cold War world. A Sikorski appointment would break the mold of traditional cleavages in European and transatlantic relations. In a year of change from the Obama inauguration to the reexamination of the strategic concept, Sikorski's appointment would resonate strongly within the halls of NATO headquarters that this is not your father's NATO.

Tyson Barker is a graduate of SAIS, Johns Hopkins and Columbia University and has worked extensively on transatlantic issues.

 

Related materials from the Atlantic Community:

 

  • 7
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this Article! What's this?

 
 
Comments
Marek  Swierczynski

January 15, 2009

  • 4
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
The media campaign focused on Mr.Sikorski is something that puzzles observers in Poland. Simply because Poland's current FM was for too long so staunchly in the Red camp that it seems almost impossible that with Obama's arrival he is still "electable" for any senior international post that the US has a veto on.

Mr.Sikorski joined the "bandwagon" in the last possible moment, when it was too obvious that McCain can not win the election. But as a Reaganite his support for Obama was a matter of political choice rather than belief. This does not mean of course that only Obama-worshippers are allowed now, God forbid.

But to be fair, one should mention that the right-wing camp of president Kaczynski "accused" Sikorski of personally knowing Ron Asmus, a figure that once was told to be important in the Obama team-in-making - which was equal to betrayal for the McCainers who ran this country. Luckily, Ron turned the whole thing into a joke and handed Radek an Uncle Sam style poster with the very question that president Kaczynski asked: "do you know Ron Asmus". It is of course very sad that knowing such a nice guy and marvellous international affairs expert as Ron Asmus is a reason for political accusations in Poland.

In regard to his qualifications, Sikorski is quite inexperienced internationally as well as on homeland level. He never held any important international job, neither was he REALLY important at home, even though he was a government minister a few times before and now is the head of Poland's diplomacy. But this perhaps isn't too important, because nobody knows who was Mr.Jaap de Hoop Schaeffer before he was made Secretary General.

At home, Radek Sikorski is a star, undoubtedly. Media love him: for his style and posture, for his Oxford education and maverick past (a war correspondent for British media in Afghanistan), his elegant old-fashioned dress-code, his huge manor-house and for his lovely and brainy wife. On the backdrop of the polish political elite, Sikorski is certainly a shiny stone, but is he a real diamond? In NATO it is not enough to speak as flawless English as he does (apparently he also speaks French and most certainly some Pashto, which makes him quite unique in Poland).

Will his toughness, especially towards Russia, make him an asset or a burden for the Alliance? (again, strangely enough, president Kaczynski is rumoured to have called him "Russian agent") Will he tame his tongue and stop short of arrogance in speech that he's often accused for? Those who know Radek personally, will tell that he's far from being cool, actually he's accused to be hot-headed rather than relaxed as a diplomat should be. And he probably did not quite shelved his alleged presidential ambitions in Poland.

All in all, an interesting figure to be promoted. But let us be realistic, Sikorski has little chance to become the new SG of NATO, for too many reasons. I'd bet Anders Fogh Rasmussen has it already in the pocket.
Tags: | Sikorski |
 
Donald  Stadler

January 15, 2009

  • 3
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Why not Mr. Sikorski ? Languages have been advanced as a reason. He apparently speaks English, French, Polish (of course) and Pashtun.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Tony Blair would be worthy candidate also - but I wonder whether they speak Polish? Presumably Rasmussen speaks German and English and perhaps French although I can find no mention of what tongues he speaks. Presumably not
Polish or Magyar, however.

I guess my point is that I can't see any reason to rule out a Pole or a Hungarian just because he is a Pole or a Hungarian. There are many reasons not to nominate an American, and I agree. About 25 of them, the non American members of NATO.l Yet
FM Sikorski has an American wife, the columnist Anne Appelbaum, who writes for the Washington Post and has excellent connections in Washington, DC. Surely this kind of thing would be an excellent credential for any European seeking high office in NATO?

The friendship with Ron Asmus seems a bit thin as a reason to reject this man. Asmus was an Assistant Secretary of State under Maddie Albright, surely this is a decent credential in Obama's Washington? And when have friendships with political opponents been an unusual thing anyway? Or disqualifications for any office. Let me clue you in about something, Marek. If having friendships across the aisle were a disqualificaion we'd have to find a new President and vice-president very quickly - both Obama and Biden have them.
 
Anna de Brux / HILLBLOGGER3

January 19, 2009

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Too early to tell. All to often the front runners are not selected. It is a dark horse that wins. There will be a compromise. NATO SG and the SG of the European Council need to be selected this sumer. There will be a strong connection.
Tags: | NATO | EU |
 
Mateusz Lech Pawlowski

January 20, 2009

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Well, it would be nice to have Mr. Sikorski as a chief of NATO. But I truly doubt that US and some European allies will be able to oppose German and France veto. Poland is too much anti-Russian in they easy to set polish FM on this position. Europe still fear of Russia to make a step that Kremlin may not accept at all.

Again, few days ago, President Kaczynski said that even if he is not agreeing with all FD ideas, he thinking that Mr. Sikorski will be valuable for NATO.
Tags: | NATO | UE |
 
Unregistered User

March 20, 2012

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
qKerGP , [url=http://pillvpmicyjo.com/]pillvpmicyjo[/url], [link=http://bajgmfycjams.com/]bajgmfycjams[/link], http://rnxddvusndlc.com/
 

Commenting has been deactivated in the archive. We appreciate your comments on our more recent articles at atlantic-community.org


Community

You are in the archive of all articles published on atlantic-community.org from 2007 to 2012. To read the latest articles from our open think tank and network with community members, please go to our new website