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Friday, June 21, 2024

NATO agrees on new chief

Dutch politician Mark Rutte has secured the consent of all bloc members to replace Jens Stoltenberg

Caretaker prime minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte has been tapped to become the next secretary-general of NATO. He will succeed Jens Stoltenberg, who has led the US-led military bloc since 2014.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis had announced his candidacy for the job in March, six months after Rutte began his campaign, but notified the bloc on Thursday that he was withdrawing from consideration.

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Only Hungary had endorsed Iohannis, but Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with Rutte. Another holdover, Slovakia, quickly followed suit.

NATO at this point appears to have settled the succession issue before its July summit in Washington, where the bloc will celebrate its 75th anniversary. Rutte is expected to take over his duties on October 2. Not everyone has reacted to the news positively, however.

“I’m a hard NO on Rutte,” said Richard Grenell, former acting head of US national intelligence and a confidant of former – and possibly future – President Donald Trump. “The president of the United States in January 2025 will pick the NATO secretary-general,” Grenell added.

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“Mark Rutte spent 10+ years destroying our country. His promises are worthless. He’s a pathological liar and a warmongering globalist,” Dutch political commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek said following his endorsement by Orban, adding that having him as the secretary-general of NATO “means serious trouble for humanity.”

Rutte’s critics have pointed out that in his 14 years of ruling the EU’s fifth-largest economy, he failed to meet NATO’s goal of having military spending account for 2% of the Netherlands’ GDP. Likewise, he did not campaign hard in Eastern Europe, where a candiddate that is more hawkish on Russia would be preferable.

Stoltenberg has been the head of the bloc for a decade now. His term was extended four times due to disagreements about succession. The Ukraine conflict in 2022 saw his tenure extended through September 2023, which got pushed back again at last year’s summit in Vilnius.

Meanwhile, Rutte is still the caretaker prime minister of the Netherlands. He disbanded the Dutch government last July, after his coalition collapsed over immigration policy. The winners of the December 2023 election have not yet managed to form a cabinet.