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Controversial new NATO boss April 4, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , comments closed

AP now reports that Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen is confirmed as new NATO secretary general, despite strong opposition by Turkey. It was not an easy choice for NATO, and carries with it a number of issues.

Fogh Rasmussen is certainly controversial in many places. One of the big problems Turkey had with his candidature may be his involvement in the Mohammed caricature controversy, in which he supported Danish newspapers quite vehemently. He is also closely tied to former US president Bush and has been very supportive of the war in Iraq. This is understandably difficult for a Muslim country partially located in the Middle East.

Fogh Rasmussen, a right-liberal politician, has also been controversial domestically. In 1992 he had to resign from his post as Minister of Taxation preempting a vote of no confidence for misinforming the Danish parliament. He is also known for his adherence to the liberal ideal of the minimal state and a preference for low taxes. On the latter point he has been criticized for not doing enough, but he has implemented a “tax freeze”, promising at the least not to raise any Danish taxes. The most controversial of his policies is arguably his government’s hard-line stance on immigration, by many accused of bordering on the xenophobic.

Fogh Rasmussen has also made a name for himself as a strong EU supporter, and has reportedly been considered for several positions in the EU leadership. He has however run into many problems on home ground during his years in the Danish cabinet, with Danish rejection of the Maastricht Treaty, the Monetary Union and most recently opposition to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.

The biggest challenge for NATO is however likely to be that many leaders in the Muslim world still connect Denmark and Fogh Rasmussen with the controversy over the Mohammed charicatures – a connection that could now spill over more strongly to NATO, giving more fuel to Muslim leaders that benefit from portraying it as an anti-Muslim alliance.