Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte Poised to Become Next NATO Secretary General

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to be the next Secretary General of NATO following the withdrawal of his only rival, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

President Iohannis notified the military alliance of his decision to exit the race at the end of last week, his office announced on Thursday. Rutte and Iohannis had been competing to succeed Jens Stoltenberg, whose term concludes in October.

Although Rutte remains the sole candidate, he has yet to be officially confirmed by NATO member states. At 57, Rutte will be tasked with managing NATO’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and maintaining the United States’ commitment to the alliance, particularly if Donald Trump, who has previously shown reluctance towards American involvement in NATO, is re-elected as president.

Rutte has been praised for his positive dealings with Trump in the past. Speaking at a security conference in February, he emphasized that Europe should collaborate “with whoever is on the dance floor,” according to AFP.

Rutte entered the race for NATO’s top position after announcing his departure from politics following the collapse of his coalition government last summer. His successor, Dick Schoof, was nominated by the new Dutch coalition partners at the end of May, facilitating Rutte’s transition out of his role as Prime Minister.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is set to become the next Secretary General of NATO, garnering endorsement from numerous member nations, including key players like the UK, US, France, and Germany, due to his steadfast support for Ukraine and his extensive 14-year tenure in European politics.

Initially, three member countries—Hungary, Romania, and Turkey—expressed reservations about his candidacy. However, these hurdles were gradually overcome. In April, Rutte traveled to Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after which Turkey pledged its support, as reported by the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, Hungary, which had faced criticism from Rutte in the past, also withdrew its opposition. This shift came after Rutte assured that Hungary would not be required to provide military aid to Ukraine. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Twitter that with Rutte’s confirmation of his support for the deal brokered with current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Hungary was “ready to support PM Rutte’s bid.”

Following Romanian President Klaus Iohannis’ withdrawal from the race, he directed Romania’s defense council to back Rutte, which they did, according to his office.

The official confirmation of Rutte’s candidacy is expected to take place at the next NATO summit, scheduled for July in Washington, D.C.

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