The Dutchman Rutte, supported by London and Washington, well placed to lead NATO

by William James

LONDON (Reuters) – The United States and the United Kingdom on Thursday gave their support to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as NATO secretary general, two strong endorsements for this already favorite.

“President [Joe] Biden strongly supports Prime Minister’s candidacy [Mark] Rutte to be the next NATO secretary general,” a US official said.

“The Prime Minister [Mark] Rutte fully understands the importance of the Alliance, he is a natural leader and communicator and his leadership will serve the Alliance in these critical times,” he added.

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The British Foreign Office, for its part, said that Mark Rutte was a respected figure with defense and security credentials and that he would ensure that NATO remained strong and ready to cope.

France is also pushing for the candidacy of the Dutch Prime Minister.

In Brussels, NATO headquarters, a senior French official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that President Emmanuel Macron was an early supporter of Mark Rutte and had even canvassed him for the post. last year.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also gave his support to Mark Rutte, a German government spokesperson said.

The successor to Jens Stoltenberg, whose mandate at the head of NATO was extended until October 1, will take office in a delicate period for the military alliance, severely tested by the conflict between Russia and Russia. ‘Ukraine.

The next NATO Secretary General could also have trouble with Donald Trump if the former president is re-elected during the American presidential election in November. The former tenant of the White House publicly cast doubt on the American commitment to defend its NATO allies.

At the Munich Security Conference last weekend, Mark Rutte, 57, said Europe should “stop complaining and moaning” about Donald Trump and, on the contrary, focus on what Europe should do to help Ukraine.

“We must work with all those who have entered the dance,” he stressed

The Secretary General of NATO is appointed by consensus of the 31 member states. Two diplomats familiar with the matter said Rutte already had the support of 20 member states.

Sweden is set to become the 32nd member of the bloc.

Already considered the favorite, Mark Rutte confirmed his interest in the position last year.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands with record longevity, Mark Rutte announced his departure from the Dutch political scene last July but has remained the interim leader of the kingdom since the legislative elections in November. Negotiations for the formation of a new coalition government have still not been concluded.

(Reporting by William James, Andrew Gray, Louise Breuch Rasmussen, additional reporting by Bart Meijer, Muvija M, Renee Maltezou; French version Zhifan Liu, editing by Sophie Louet)

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