BRUSSELS – A few days before announcing that he was to step down as NATO secretary-general at the end of this year, and shortly before his visit to Athens to discuss the replacement of NATO troops in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with EU troops, Lord George Robertson talked to Kathimerini. The interview came as the Atlantic alliance prepared to deal with perhaps its greatest challenge in the post-Cold War era after September 11 and the Afghanistan operation: the question of whether an operation against Iraq would take place with or without NATO’s support. On Wednesday of last week, the USA’s representative to NATO asked the country’s allies to help it in its operations against Iraq when they begin, including access to air corridors, ports, supply stations, military bases, naval bases, minesweepers and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). The USA also wants Turkey to be given complete coverage through the activation of Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty, as its territory will be used for air, and probably land, operations against Iraq. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed this request but noted that the US president had not yet made his final decisions. So last Wednesday, although Europeans had not been asked to help in the actual operations, the smiles on many faces froze. Not so that of Lord Robertson, who had long beforehand stated that NATO would support operations approved by the UN. He knows that NATO is no longer what it once was and that in order to remain the central alliance for serving Euro-Atlantic interests, it could not be absent from the theaters of conflict where these interests were at stake. For NATO, it is a question of survival, although this does not necessarily mean it wants this war.