The Man Who’s Always There — What Herb Thinks

It fascinates me how, whenever there’s an international event or crisis, Javier Solana is always somewhere in the middle of it. And, yet, he somehow manages to keep himself out of the media’s spotlight.

For example, last November U.S. President George W. Bush attended the historic NATO Summit in Prague. The reason this meeting was held in the capital of the Czech Republic was so important is because at this summit it was decided to go for the so-called “big bang” enlargement of NATO and invite seven new nations to join the alliance — Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

When I saw a photo of this meeting, I wasn’t surprised to see President Bush the center of the media’s attention. After all, Bush is the leader of the world’s last and only super power. However, I was surprised to see who had the honor to sit next to Bush.

On one side of President Bush sat Secretary of State Colin Powell, and on the other side of the president sat — you guessed it — Javier Solana.

Think about it. Here we have a very historic meeting of all the leaders of the NATO alliance. And, the person who is given the second seat of honor among these important Western leaders isn’t the head of NATO, and isn’t even the head of a NATO member state — it’s Javier Solana. Why?

This is what I think: It’s because Solana was the one who made NATO’s enlargement possible in the first place when he talked Russia into going along with NATO enlargement to the east when he was head of NATO.

In fact, some believe Solana’s brilliant diplomacy as the head of NATO may have contributed more to the reshaping of the post-Cold War Europe than any other international leader in modern history.

As the EU’s foreign policy chief, once again it was Solana’s diplomacy that recently kept the Balkans from disintegrating into another costly war and opened the door for EU peacekeepers to take NATO’s place on the ground. Read about it here.

Now, once again, Solana is in the middle of things. This time it’s the growing nuclear crisis in Asia that is being created by the strange little leader of North Korea. Read about it here.

After meeting with officials in Japan and the president of South Korea, it looks like Solana will be sent to North Korea to see if he can do what Washington has so far failed to do — defuse that ticking mega bomb in Asia.

Will Solana’s diplomacy once again do the trick?

Stay tuned!

— Herb Peters
2/11/03