NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen today announced the appointment of Alexander Vershbow, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, to take the No. 2 seat at the alliance's headquarters in Belgium on June 1, 2012.
Vershbow, who served 32 years in the Foreign Service before his current Pentagon post, served as U.S. ambassador to NATO from 1998 to 2001. He was the U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2001 to 2005 and to South Korea from 2005 to 2008.
In announcing Vershbow's appointment, Rasmussen also said he has extended the term of the current deputy secretary general, Claudio Bisogniero, from its scheduled expiration at the end of September 2011 to the summer of 2012.
Rasmussen said NATO will benefit from the extension because Bisogniero made an "indispensable contribution" to plans to reform and transform NATO's structure that were agreed upon at last month's NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal. The body agreed, among other things, to eliminate seven headquarters and to reduce headquarters staff by about 4,000 people.
"I have thought it best to take an early decision on Ambassador Bisogniero's successor to ensure a smooth transition in this crucial post," the secretary general said. "Ambassador Vershbow will take up his new duties on June 1, 2012. I am delighted that he will return to NATO headquarters, where he served with such distinction as U.S. ambassador in 1998 to 2001."
In NATO's practice of reserving certain positions for specified nations, Vershbow's appointment changes longstanding protocol of reserving the No. 2 position for Italians. Ambassadors of all 28 nations were open to apply for the position, a Pentagon official said.
By Lisa Daniel