PARIS, March 16 -- President Bush's nomination of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz as the next president of the World Bank was met with much surprise, little enthusiasm and some outright opposition in Europe, where he is best known as a leading proponent of a conflict deeply unpopular here, the Iraq war.
"We were led to believe that the neoconservatives were losing ground," said Michael Cox, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. "But clearly the revolution is alive and well."
Paul D. Wolfowitz
Age: 61 (born Dec. 22, 1943).
Education: Bachelor's degree in mathematics, Cornell University, 1965; doctorate, political science, University of Chicago, 1972.
Experience: Deputy secretary of defense, 2001-present; dean, School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, 1994-2001; taught at the National Defense University, 1993; undersecretary of defense for policy, 1989-93; ambassador to Indonesia, 1986-1989; assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, 1982-1986; headed State Department's policy planning staff, 1981-82; deputy assistant secretary of defense for regional programs, 1977-80; special assistant for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, 1976-77; with U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1973-77; taught at Yale University, 1970-73.
Family: Three children.
-- Associated Press
He added that despite recent efforts from Washington to mend relations, "Europeans are still inclined deep down to suspect the worst, and this appointment won't go down too well."
European countries control about 30 percent of the votes on the bank's board; opponents would be able to fight the nomination if they chose to do so. By tradition, the United States, the bank's largest shareholder, selects the president, while Europeans choose the head of the bank's sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.
Some Europeans who closely follow U.S. politics said the Wolfowitz choice, coming the week after Bush selected outspoken diplomat John R. Bolton as his U.N. ambassador, could be a sign that the president is moving to placate his more conservative supporters.
Some expressed concern that such appointments could undermine transatlantic goodwill that has developed in recent weeks through visits by Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"There are two interpretations" of the selection of Wolfowitz, said Guillaume Parmentier, who heads the French Center on the United States, a research organization in Paris. "One is the optimistic one -- that this is going to take him away from U.S. policy. . . . The pessimistic interpretation is that this administration has to give sop to the far right. There was Bolton and now Wolfowitz -- where does it stop?"
Official reaction to the nomination was muted. Questioned by a reporter, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said, "It's a proposal. We shall examine it in the context of the personality of the person you mention and perhaps in view of other candidates."
The German development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said that "the enthusiasm in 'old Europe' is not exactly overwhelming." Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld used that term for European countries that did not join the Iraq war.
The strongest praise came from the closest U.S. ally, Britain. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "Paul Wolfowitz is very distinguished and experienced internationally, and if his appointment is confirmed, we look forward to working with him."
Statements from private environmental and aid organizations were largely hostile. The environmental group Greenpeace called it "a disaster to put the World Bank, which should be delivering sustainable development, into the hands of a man who clearly will put U.S. and oil industry interests first."
ActionAid, a British- and South African-based aid organization, called the nomination "an unwelcome step." Referring to the selection system, Patrick Watt, a policy officer with the group, said in a statement that the announcement "speaks volumes for the need to reform a process which is neither transparent nor based on merit. . . . As well as lacking any relevant experience, he is a deeply divisive figure who is unlikely to move the Bank towards a more pro-poor agenda."
Other people said Wolfowitz's intellect, commitment to spreading democracy and closeness to the White House might make him an effective World Bank chief.
"Everyone knows he won't just manage the status quo, that he'll make the World Bank a player," said Mark Leonard, director of foreign policy of the Center for European Reform, a London-based research organization. Leonard was at the British government's Department for International Development when the nomination was announced, and he said the first response there was highly negative. As the aid officials got over the initial shock, he said, they began to see possible benefits.
"Let's face it, in this administration we're not going to get . . . Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama," he said. "Given that, there are a lot of people who'd be a hell of a lot worse than Wolfowitz."
Francois Heisbourg, a leading French defense analyst who knows Wolfowitz, said the first reaction of many was "fear and loathing," but added, "Paul is a man who has intellectual depth. He's not a one-agenda, single-point man." He said that as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Wolfowitz helped steer the country toward democracy.
"He does have the breadth of experience and range of interests that could serve him well in this kind of soft-power job," Heisbourg said. "He's probably more suited to this soft-power position than his hard-power position at the Pentagon."
Frankel reported from London.