NATO: MacKay's Atlantic gateway?

Here’s the U.S. ambassador to NATO saying his country — the U.S.; try to keep up — would be “open” to a Canadian secretary-general for the alliance.

That’s new.

To be fair, Kurt Volker merely put his nameless Canadian on a list, like this:

The U.S. is open to the appointment of an eastern European or a Canadian as the next head of NATO, potentially breaking western Europe’s half-century lock on the post, the American envoy to the alliance said.

“We wouldn’t discriminate,” Kurt Volker, U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Brussels today. “If the right person comes out of Germany, the right person comes out of central Europe, the right person comes out of Canada, we’re equally open.”

Now, the reason it’s worth noting the presence of a Canadian on Volker’s list is that there has never been a Canadian secretary-general for NATO. There has lately been some scuttlebutt that Peter MacKay and John Manley might be seeking the job. For what it’s worth, Manley will not be attending this weekend’s Munich Security Conference, which just about everybody else in NATO circles will be at — including MacKay. (It’s the first time a Conservative cabinet minister has attended the confab since the Conservatives were elected in 2006.)

Why else should we be interested in this near-random mention of Canada? Because a senior European diplomat in Ottawa told me last week that the Europeans can’t settle on their own candidate for the job. The Brits and the Poles like Radek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister. The French really don’t, because Sikorski is not friendly toward the Russians and the French want to be friendly toward the Russians. But surely a proper Conservative like MacKay would be unacceptable for the same reason? No: because MacKay hasn’t taken much of a discernible position on anything, he’s probably a fine compromise candidate.