US, UK, Germany and France support Mark Rutte as next NATO chief

The US, UK, Germany and France all signalled their support on Thursday for outgoing Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte to become NATO's new secretary general. The support puts Rutte in pole position to succeed Norway's Jens Stoltenberg at the top of the alliance, Reuters reported.

"Rutte is highly respected within the alliance, has serious credentials in defence and security and will ensure the alliance remains strong and ready to defend and deter," said a British government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Biden also wants Rutte to become the new NATO chief, according to a US official. Later on Thursday, French and German officials also confirmed to Reuters their governments' support for the outgoing Dutch prime minister.

Not the only candidate

But Rutte is not the only candidate for the job. In response to the news, Romania nominated its president, Klaus Iohannis, to be the next secretary general. According to the Romanian president, Eastern European countries feel marginalised because none of the alliance's top jobs go to nationals from their countries.

Some other NATO members say it is time for a woman to lead the alliance. Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas, who is currently wanted in Russia for the "destruction and damage of monuments to Soviet soldiers", is the most concrete female candidate.

NATO has been led by Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg since 2014. Originally due to retire last year, his mandate was extended for another year in October after NATO members failed to agree on a successor.

The election of a new Secretary General requires consensus among all 31 member states. They aim to agree on the next secretary general by early April, when NATO foreign ministers gather in Brussels for the Alliance's 75th anniversary.


PHOTO: Netherland's prime minister Mark Rutte arrives at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP

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