Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Danish PM to head Nato

Nato leaders have agreed that the alliance’s new secretary general will be Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who sent troops to fight alongside the Americans in Iraq.

The 56-year-old takes over from Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who is due to leave this summer.

Ahead of the April Nato summit, Mr Rasmussen appeared to have the backing of heavyweight Nato members, notably the US, UK, France and Germany.

But Turkey remained a significant obstacle. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Mr Rasmussen personally about the “serious indignation” in Muslim countries over his stance on the row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006.

‘No comment’

Mr Rasmussen, a liberal who has led three consecutive centre-right governments in the last eight years, had repeatedly refused to comment on his candidacy, or even confirm he was in the running.

However, his reticence is believed to have been a tactical move to avoid interfering in any of the diplomatic efforts taking place behind closed doors, rather than signalling a lack of interest in the post.

Mr Rasmussen will face a challenging time at the helm of Nato, with the war in Afghanistan hit by severe setbacks and the alliance debating whether to take in more ex-Soviet countries.

But after more than seven years as prime minister, he is considered a veteran of international politics, whose attention to detail and strong communication skills will stand him in good stead in his new job.

Deal maker

Mr Rasmussen brings considerable experience to the table.

When Denmark held the rotating EU presidency in 2002, it was Mr Rasmussen who led the complex negotiations which resulted in 10 European countries joining the EU in the union’s biggest enlargement to date.

A personal friend of former US President George W Bush, Mr Rasmussen was one of the foreign leaders who most strongly supported the US-led “war on terror”.

Under Mr Rasmussen, Denmark not only supplied troops for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but also sent 700 soldiers to fight under the Nato banner in Afghanistan.

However, his support for the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and his uncompromising stand in the row over Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad severely damaged his standing in the Muslim world.

Mr Rasmussen has all along refused to apologise for the controversial cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

He has stressed the freedom of the Danish press and said it was not for him to limit or judge what the press published.

Muslims who opposed the cartoons said his tough stance on the matter completely disregarded Islamic sensitivities.

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In recent years, Mr Rasmussen has led diplomatic efforts to get major countries such as the US, China, India and Brazil to back a new UN climate agreement.

The agreement is scheduled to be signed in Copenhagen in December 2009, at the so-called COP15 climate summit.

Environmental campaigners fear that the chances of a deal being reached could be diminished if Mr Rasmussen were to leave office before then.

As well as campaigning for an international deal to prevent climate change, Mr Rasmussen was also quick off the mark in embracing social networking sites on the internet.

He was the first top European politician to use Facebook, the popular networking service, to engage with voters. He now boasts 12,000 Facebook friends.

His wife also joined the ranks of celebrity recently when she participated in a television dance show. She has since quit her job in childcare.

NATO Meeting to Highlight Strains on Afghanistan

STRASBOURG, France – NATO leaders gathered here Friday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of an alliance that deterred the Soviet Union, opened the door to emerging democracies, battled ethnic cleansing and now welcomes the return of France as a full member. But they also must face the harsh reality that NATO’s first military mission outside Europe is failing in a way that risks fracturing the alliance.

As President Obama takes ownership of the fight against Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies, aides say he is determined to turn around the war in Afghanistan with a regional approach, recognizing that the stability of neighboring Pakistan, where Al Qaeda hides, is increasingly at risk. Mr. Obama, who left London for Strasbourg Friday after attending the Group of 20 summit meeting, is trying to fashion an efficient counterinsurgency strategy, as in Iraq, with a comprehensive surge of military and civilian reinforcements.

But his increasing American troops in Afghanistan to some 68,000 by the end of the year, from 38,000 today, is also likely to significantly Americanize an operation that in recent years had been divided equally between American troops and allied forces. By year’s end, American troops will outnumber allied forces by at least two to one.

His NATO allies are giving the president considerable vocal support for the newly integrated strategy. But they are giving him very few new troops on the ground, underlining the fundamental strains in the alliance.

The allies will offer more funds but no more than several thousand new personnel members, according to alliance military planners. Many of those will not be soldiers, but police trainers to meet a central pillar of the president’s new Afghan strategy, which focuses on an expansion of Afghan security forces. But even for the small numbers of European combat reinforcements, check the fine print: Nearly all will be sent to provide security for Afghanistan’s elections this summer, and will not be permanently deployed.

The war in Afghanistan has not drawn the enormous public protests in Europe that preceded the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq. However, there were clashes in Strasbourg on Thursday between police firing tear gas and nearly 1,000 protesters who tried to enter the city center. The protesters, some of them masked, set garbage cans on fire and smashed a dozen bus stop shelters. On Friday, the French police said that of 300 protesters who had been detained, 107 remained in custody, The Associated Press reported.

The anti-NATO protesters marched from a so-called “peace camp” set up on the outskirts of Strasbourg, where security is already tight. As many as 30,000 police officers are on duty in the city and just over the border in Kehl and Baden-Baden, Germany, where some events will take place.

The war in Afghanistan was the first time that NATO invoked its Article 5, which requires collective defense of a member under attack. It was an important signal of support for the United States after Sept. 11, 2001, and maintaining the alliance was always considered more important than the inefficiencies of the effort, where each national parliament could decide what its troops could do. But Mr. Obama’s approach reflects a decision that to salvage the war now requires a dominant American role.

“As a candidate, Obama had expectations that Europe would make a serious increase in troop levels after he became president,” said Charles A. Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “But there is a realization now that Europe’s main contribution will be police trainers, economic assistance and development assistance.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his British counterpart, John Hutton, have publicly warned that the performance of some European troops demonstrates that NATO risks slipping toward a two-tiered alliance. In that event, it would be divided between those that can and will fight, like Britain, Canada, France and Poland, and those that cannot or will not because of public opinion at home.

In many cases, European capitals have placed severe restrictions on their forces assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, or I.S.A.F. That has been such a hindrance to the war effort, in the view of some American commanders, that they ruefully say the alliance mission’s initials now stand for “I Saw America Fight.”

To be sure, a number of NATO and other partner nations have sent troops to Afghanistan who have fought and died in percentages larger than those of the American military. Australian, British, Canadian, Dutch and French conventional forces have shed much blood, and commando units from some of the smaller, newer NATO allies in the Baltics have punched far above their weight, according to American Special Operations commanders.

But even in allied countries whose soldiers have fought so well, public opinion does not support an increase of troops sent to what seems to be an endless war far away in a country that has always ejected foreign occupiers.

Under Mr. Obama’s plan, the United States is scheduled next year to take over from the Europeans the command in southern Afghanistan, which has seen the worst resurgence of violence. The United States will retain the command in fiercely contested eastern Afghanistan, across from Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, where Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has said that Osama bin Laden and important Qaeda leaders reside.

That means that by next year, the allies will be in charge only in the relatively combat-free northern and western regions.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Holbrooke understood early on that European members of NATO would not provide many troops beyond the approximately 30,000 already there, led by Britain, Germany and France. Instead, the Europeans will focus on the training of the police, of the army and of the civilian administration. The new goal, according to American military planners and NATO-nation diplomats, is to produce an Afghan Army of some 220,000 troops and an enlarged police force of 180,000.

What Afghanistan needs, a senior German official said, is not more foreign soldiers but more Afghan troops and police officers. Germany is sending in new police mentoring teams, and several hundred more police officers and gendarmes will come from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Spain, according to the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner. France is trying to coordinate a second pillar of the European police force in Afghanistan to do training in the countryside for periods of up to 11 months. That project, which European officials say is more efficient than trying to send local police officers to Kabul, can have a European label.

Europeans will also concentrate on the “civilian surge” to help create functioning Afghan political, judicial and security structures in the countryside.

Daniel P. Fata, the Pentagon’s senior official for European and NATO issues during the Bush administration, said that Mr. Obama must not lower the NATO flag in Afghanistan, as that might provide allies an excuse to go home. “No European country wants to be the first to leave Afghanistan,” said Mr. Fata, a vice president with the Cohen Group, a global business consulting practice. “But many would be happy to be the second, third or fourth.”

Europeans praise the new policy, which “includes for the first time the words ‘exit strategy,’ ” another senior German official said. “But if the real problem is in western Pakistan, for that no one – not Europe and not the U.S. – has any easy answer.”

The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER and STEVEN ERLANGER
Steven Erlanger reported from Strasbourg, France, and Thom Shanker from Washington.

World Leaders Agree on Global Response

Leaders of the Group of 20 nations on Thursday announced a host of measures they said should help lift the global economy — but deferred many of the trickiest decisions or forwarded them to international institutions unaccustomed to the responsibility.

Facing the worst economic crisis in decades – and one they say hasn’t hit bottom — the leaders concluded a summit by turning especially to the International Monetary Fund to warn of impending problems and assess whether G-20 countries are keeping their promises on regulation and fiscal stimulus to ease the impact of the recession.

Those are tasks beyond the IMF’s traditional role, and may require the fund to show more spine in dealing with its largest members than it has managed in the past. The leaders agreed to quadruple the financial capacity of the IMF with a $1 trillion commitment.

The G-20 also worked to clamp down on tax havens and to tighten financial regulations, bringing large hedge funds and financial institutions into the global regulatory net. The G-20 wants to register hedge funds with domestic regulators, disclose how much they have borrowed and to make sure there is effective oversight, even if the fund operates across borders.

The measures may ease some pain from the economic crisis. But many declarations were of principles that have to be followed up — some at another G-20 meeting set for later this year.

“Our problems are not going to be solved in one meeting; they are not going to be solved in two meetings,” said President Barack Obama, at his first high-level international meeting.

A Communiqué issued by the group at the end of the meeting didn’t specifically tackle the problems that many say are at the root of today’s crisis, such as the broken banking systems. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the G-20 had figured out a way to deal with toxic bank assets. Yet in the communiqué, the leaders said they would “address decisively” the problem of impaired assets, but didn’t spell out how.

The chance for more sweeping progress here was sidelined by weeks of differences among key players. Calls by the U.S. and the U.K. for more financial stimulus to restart economies collided with European calls — primarily from France and Germany — for stricter regulation of the global financial system.

The group made no commitment to a specific stimulus target that the U.S. supported. Instead, the leaders made a vague commitment to “deliver the scale of sustained fiscal effort necessary to restore growth” and said the world was in the middle of a giant monetary and fiscal stimulus valued at $5 trillion.

Nonetheless, by Thursday night, the erstwhile factions — Messrs. Obama and Brown as well as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — painted a picture of progress and bridged their differences.

“This is the day that the world came together, to fight back against the global recession. Not with words but a plan for global recovery and for reform and with a clear timetable,” Mr. Brown said.

Other international institutions were assigned enforcement duties. The Financial Services Board — an expanded version of the Swiss-based Financial Stability Forum, a group of international regulators — is expected to gain more clout as it tries to coordinate crisis-response SWAT teams of regulators from many countries. The World Trade Organization is being asked to review whether G-20 members break pledges to refrain from protectionism.

In the Communiqué on Thursday, the leaders said the new Financial Services Board would work with the IMF to signal “early warnings” of economic and financial risks.

“There has been a strengthening of the mandate” of the group, said Mario Draghi, the FSF head and a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who is governor of the Bank of Italy.

It’s far from clear that the international organizations have the muscle — or will — to carry out the tougher mandates. For instance, the IMF in the spring of 2008 urged the U.S. to take care of its toxic-asset program and handed the U.S. Treasury a detailed plan for doing so, said U.S. and Treasury officials. The U.S. ignored the plan.

Disagreements among the G-20 leaders continued until the last minute. According to White House officials, in an account supported by officials from other countries, Mr. Obama was crucial in sealing the deal on the last remaining stumbling block: publishing tax-haven names.

Mr. Sarkozy insisted that the G-20 strongly endorse a list of tax havens that aren’t in compliance with the organization’s rules on transparency, and that the list be drawn up by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Chinese President Hu Jintao objected, especially to the role of the OECD. China isn’t an OECD member.

The back-and-forth on the matter began Thursday morning and stretched into the afternoon, a senior Obama administration official said. The opposing sides returned to it three times.

Finally, Mr. Obama took Mr. Sarkozy aside and suggested compromise language. The G-20 wouldn’t order up a blacklist. Instead, its Communiqué would cite a list the OECD had published, on its own, under its own initiative. Mr. Sarkozy agreed.

Mr. Obama then sent an aide, Michael Froman, to the Chinese delegation. Mr. Froman suggested a direct conversation between Messrs. Obama and Hu, which the Chinese accepted. Mr. Obama huddled with Mr. Hu, then called Mr. Sarkozy into the conference with their translators and aides. The three leaders shook hands, agreed to the Obama language, and the issue was resolved in 15 to 20 minutes, the White House official said.

Summit host British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, front row center, stands with the other G20 leaders during the group photo Thursday.

Summit host British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, front row center, stands with the other G20 leaders during the group photo Thursday.

By STEPHEN FIDLER, BOB DAVIS and CARRICK MOLLENKAMP