US does not want to hear from another NATO boss: ‘We fully support Rutte’ | Politics

US does not want to hear from another NATO boss: ‘We fully support Rutte’ | Politics
US does not want to hear from another NATO boss: ‘We fully support Rutte’ | Politics
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Mark Rutte still has the support of the Americans in the battle to determine who will become the new head of NATO. The United States is the most important NATO member state and has a decisive say in the succession of current NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

“We fully support Mark Rutte as the new Secretary General of NATO,” US NATO Ambassador Julianne Smith said on Tuesday during a press briefing ahead of the NATO meeting on Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels. Prime Minister Rutte seemed certain of that position at the beginning of this year, until he faced competition from Romanian President Klaus Iohannis as candidate secretary general.

Americans seem less enthusiastic about that candidate. “We have a lot of respect for Iohannis and we wish him all the best,” said Smith, who hoped in February that the new secretary general would already be announced. At the beginning of last month it became clear that that ‘deadline’ would not be met , because countries such as Romania and Hungary still oppose Rutte as NATO boss.

In order to appoint a new Secretary General, all 32 NATO member states must agree. Last week, sources in Brussels stated that 25 countries have now spoken out in favor of Rutte, the count now stands at 28. At NATO, Rutte, who has been prime minister for almost fourteen years, is praised for his ‘impressive leadership’.

Pros and cons

According to Smith, all 32 ambassadors are currently looking for “potential successors” to Stoltenberg. “There are officially two candidates, and the debate about their qualifications is still ongoing.” According to Smith, “the pros and cons” are weighed against each other “until we reach consensus.” “Hopefully sometime in the next few weeks.”

Although Norwegian Stoltenberg will not leave until early October, the Americans want the decision on his successor to be completed by early July at the latest. Then the NATO summit is in the American city of Washington. The intention is that the new Secretary General will be formally hoisted on the shield at that time.

According to insiders in Brussels, American President Biden said about Rutte that he was ‘very impressed by his leadership’. He first approached Rutte for this position in January 2023. Rutte is said to have said at the time that he was not available because he was still leading a cabinet. After the fall of the cabinet in the summer of that year, and Rutte’s announcement to leave politics in The Hague, he came back into the picture.

White smoke

The fact that the appointment of the new NATO boss is taking longer than expected is experienced as annoying by those in favor of Rutte as ‘SG’. Especially because the obstructive NATO member states seem to want something in return for their support. A Brussels source finds it ‘worrying’ that ‘allies are proceeding in such a way’ when it comes to the appointment of a new NATO chief.

NATO will commemorate its 75th anniversary on Thursday, when NATO ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense meet in Brussels. The chance that Rutte will be appointed NATO boss this week is considered small by insiders. But ‘sometime in April or May’ it could in principle happen any day, says one person involved. He compares it to the way cardinals in Rome choose a new pope: no one knows in advance when, but at some point there is white smoke.

If there is white smoke for Rutte, it is not clear whether he will immediately leave as outgoing Prime Minister or will remain in the Tower for a little longer. It is also still unknown who will succeed him as Prime Minister upon his departure from The Hague until a new cabinet takes office.

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The article is in Dutch

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