Dutchman Rutte can become NATO Secretary General


Lerato Khumalo

Mark Rutte will most likely become the new NATO Secretary General. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has withdrawn his own candidacy.

The way is clear for the appointment of Mark Rutte as the next Secretary General of NATO after months of blockade. Romania was the last member of the alliance to announce on Thursday that it would give up its opposition to the top post being given to the outgoing Dutch head of government. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis had previously also applied for the post. Now he is withdrawing his candidacy.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico also spoke out in favor of Rutte as Secretary General of the defense alliance. Fico said: “After consultations with both candidates as well as with Prime Minister Robert Fico and the Slovakian government, the Slovak Republic can imagine supporting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the post of head of the alliance.” Until then, Slovakia had been one of the three NATO states that were still critical of Rutte’s appointment.

The Hungarian Orbán cited a letter from Rutte in which he responded to Hungarian demands as the reason for his concession on the personnel issue. One of the issues is that Hungary wants to be sure that it will not be pressured into participating in a planned NATO mission to coordinate arms deliveries to Ukraine. Orbán’s government fears that the project could push the alliance into a direct confrontation with Russia.

The current contract of the incumbent NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg runs until October 1st. He has announced several times in the past that he wants to give up the post. Last summer, however, attempts by member states to agree on a successor failed again. At the time, possible candidates to succeed Stoltenberg included Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and the then British Defense Minister Ben Wallace.

Stoltenberg said in Washington on Tuesday that it was obvious that a deal was imminent. Rutte was a very strong candidate. He was convinced that the alliance would have decided on the successor very soon, said Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg has held the top job for almost ten years now. This makes him the second longest-serving Secretary General in the history of the alliance. The longest-serving Secretary General was previously the Dutchman Joseph Luns, who served from 1971 to 1984.

A consensus is required within the defense alliance for the appointment of a new Secretary General. This means that none of the current 32 NATO states may raise an objection to the candidate. Chancellor Olaf Scholz had already publicly backed Rutte in February. Additional support also came from the USA and Great Britain.