Count NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as one of the international dignitaries delivering congratulations to the newly inaugurated President Obama.
"On behalf of the Atlantic Alliance, I warmly congratulate Barack Obama on his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America," de Hoop Scheffer said, according to a note posted on the NATO Web site today.
"President Obama takes up his responsibilities at a time when the international community faces great challenges, but also great opportunities to build a safer, more secure world. The NATO Allies, including the United States, stand together to help reach that goal.
"The United States has played a leading role within NATO since the Alliance was founded in 1949. I have no doubt that President Obama will carry on that tradition. We look forward to welcoming him to his first NATO Summit in April, in Strasbourg and Kehl, as we will celebrate NATO's 60th Anniversary and chart the way forward for the Atlantic Alliance," de Hoop Scheffer said.
In the search for that new way forward, alliance members must be encouraged by Obama's pledge to work through international organizations in tackling security problems worldwide.
But the Obama presidency could also force some uncomfortable issues for the European NATO members. With the hugely unpopular Bush administration now over, countries like Germany might find it more difficult to deny requests for more troops or more operational flexibility of their forces in Afghanistan.
-- Sebastian Sprenger