NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was in Berlin Monday, warning Europe and America not to oppose each other over the Iraqi conflict and stressing the need to build consensus within NATO.
The NATO Secretary General wants trans-Atlantic rifts healed
One week after the US elected President George W. Bush to a second term, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called for improvements to trans-Atlantic ties and greater political consensus within NATO -- specifically addressing Germany's intention not to send Bundeswehr officers to NATO-led training programs.
"The two sides must learn from each other," said de Hoop Scheffer at the Berlin Press Club Monday. "Europe cannot unite against the United States, that would only end up dividing Europe."
Late last month, US General James Jones, the supreme allied commander in Iraq, indicated that 16 or 17 of the 26 NATO countries were ready to participate in training Iraqi security forces.
Most of the countries which said they were ready to begin training are already serving as part of the US-led coalition in Iraq.
France and Germany, key opponents of the war in Iraq, agreed to contribute to a NATO security training program, but only outside of Iraq.
But Germany now faces a dilemma. The issue unleashed debate in Berlin about the government's withdrawal of German officers from NATO forces set to be deployed in Iraq as advisers in January. The government stands firm on its decision not to allow its forces to set foot in the war-torn country, while the opposition wants to see Germany actively participating in NATO programs within Iraq.
A blow to NATO solidarity
De Hoop Scheffer said he understood Berlin's position, but also pointed out that it undermined NATO solidarity.
A day after Iraq's government declared a 60-day state of emergency, the NATO Secretary General emphasized the need for Iraq to gain stability ahead of January's elections, saying this was the goal of the training program.
"I believe that for as long as we have a consensus on security policy, for example as far as the training missions in Iraq are concerned, then we cannot accept that member states signal political approval of the mission while refusing to allow their NATO officers to actually participate," he said.
NATO's role to grow
The former Dutch foreign minister also stressed that NATO's role in overseas missions is set to expand.
"The demand on NATO to run missions will increase and not diminish," he said. "I doubt if all parliaments and all parliamentarians understand this."
Urging leaders to drive a debate on changing security needs to avoid a repeat of the transatlantic rifts exposed by the US-led strike on Iraq, De Hoop Scheffer said politicians had to accept the need for a stronger alliance.
"Everybody realises that what happened a year ago should never happen again. Uniting Europe against the United States is a non-starter," he said.