NATO Takes the Highland Road

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NATO couldn’t get Braveheart to lead them, so they settled for the only other tough-talking Scotsman on offer – British Defense Secretary George Robertson -- to replace outgoing Secretary General Xavier Solana. Member states on Wednesday unanimously appointed Robertson, whose fiery warnings to Slobodan Milosevic and unsentimental assessments of what was required of the alliance made him a NATO favorite in the Kosovo conflict. "Robertson is an unglamorous, straight-talking guy, well liked by the British military and both political parties, and has good relationships with both the Americans and the Europeans," says TIME London correspondent Helen Gibson. "That makes him an ideal candidate."

The task facing Robertson may make the Kosovo conflict look like a cake walk. At the top of his agenda is rebuilding relations with Russia, which plummeted to Cold War levels during the Kosovo conflict. That won’t be made any easier by the alliance’s plans to incorporate under its umbrella Russian neighbors such as the Ukraine and the Baltic states. And then there’s the new European defense initiative, pioneered in part by Robertson, which will be headed up by Solana. "Robertson has the task of making the Europeans more self-reliant, but not so self-reliant that the Americans leave them to their own devices," says Gibson. Citing his credentials for the job during a BBC interview, Robertson mentioned experience and tenacity. He’ll need plenty of both.