A familiar face on the European political scene after 13 years as prime minister of the Netherlands, Rutte already has the support of major NATO members such as the US, Britain, France and Germany
Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is the favorite to succeed Jens Stoltenberg at the helm of NATO even though the far-right’s shock victory in his country’s recent election risks tarnishing his image.
Many diplomats estimate that Rutte it precedes against many other candidates in the succession race — among them Estonian Prime Minister Kaia Kalas and former Latvian Prime Minister Kristianis Karins.
The name of a successor to Stoltenberg, whose 10-year term was extended twice because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is expected to be announced before the July summit in Washington.
After declaring himself unavailable for the post in previous years, Rutte, 56, has now expressed interest following his surprise resignation last summer.
Last month Rutte told Dutch media that the post of NATO chief is a “very interesting work” and that he would be open to such a possibility if the opportunity arose.
Who supports him?
A familiar figure on the European political scene after 13 years as prime minister of the Netherlands, Rutte already has the support of major NATO members such as USAthe Britainthe France and the Germanydiplomats say.
“He is a candidate for NATO secretary general. He has made it clear that he is available and there is broad support for him,” says an alliance diplomat.
Some of his supporters want his name put forward soon to avoid the process of choosing a new Alliance leader becoming entangled with the process of taking the top EU posts after the European elections next June.
However, some last-minute negotiations are also likely to be expected, and some are warning that there could be a backlash from allies such as Turkey and Hungary.
A possible obstacle for Rutte could be the situation he leaves behind in the Netherlands, where the victory of the far-right Wilders has sent shockwaves across Europe.
Wishes and requests for the new GM
During talks over Stoltenberg’s possible replacement in previous years, many NATO allies had expressed their desire for the successor.
Some wanted one woman to lead the Alliance for the first time, and countries on NATO’s eastern wing closest to Russia were hoping it would be someone from their region.
Estonia’s Kalas meets those standards, but some in the West see it as too aggressive toward Moscow.
Another request was the appointment of a head who it will come from a country that meets the NATO target the defense expenditure of its members amounts to at least 2%.
THE Netherlands he did not achieve that goal during Rutte’s long tenure as prime minister but has pledged to do so next year, and his supporters say it shows his commitment.
Rutte’s government has also taken an active role in supporting Ukraine this month by pledging another two billion euros and pressuring Kiev to take delivery of F-16 fighter jets.
Rutte will be the fourth Dutchman to lead the Alliance, which reinforces the arguments of some that the Alliance is not over the moon.
But his supporters insist that Rutte is fully aware of the dangers posed by Russia.
His time in power was marked by the deaths of 196 Dutch nationals when a missile, which investigators say was supplied by Moscow, shot down a passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.
The Trump administration
In addition, some allies in Europe are considering the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the American presidency next year.
Trump has reportedly considered withdrawing the US from the alliance during his tenure and has been colluding with other members to increase spending.
Stoltenberg managed to change his mind and was described as “Trump’s pet” because he managed to manage the former American president.
Rutte has not been afraid to speak directly to Trump, even opposing him publicly during his visit to the White House over a potential US-EU trade deal.
His supporters say his long experience of finding compromises as a politician is an asset.
Those not easily convinced argue that it would be easier to get Trump on board with a NATO chief who has spent more on defense.
Stoltenberg himself also told AFP on Monday that Rutte is “a friend and a good colleague”.
“He is a capable politician with a lot of experience as prime minister. But I will not decide who will succeed me,” Stoltenberg said.
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