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Mark Rutte set to be next NATO chief after securing Romania's backing

Mark Rutte, the outgoing prime minister of the Netherlands, has secured the unanimous endorsement of all NATO member states.
Mark Rutte, the outgoing prime minister of the Netherlands, has secured the unanimous endorsement of all NATO member states. Copyright Mindaugas Kulbis/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Mindaugas Kulbis/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Jack Schickler
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The outgoing Dutch Prime Minister will head the military alliance for the coming years after Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg steps down


Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is to be named the next Secretary General of NATO after the last remaining holdout Romania agreed to back his candidacy.  

Rutte will govern over a tricky few years as the transatlantic alliance balances Russian aggression and potentially wavering US support. 

His appointment was confirmed just ahead of a summit due to be held in Washington, DC on July 9-11, marking the alliance's 75th anniversary.  

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis had also put himself forward to be Secretary General, the senior official that coordinates the Brussels-based organisation, but his government has now offered its support to Rutte, according to an official press release.  

The incumbent, Jens Stoltenberg, has been in the post since 2014 and had been due to stand down last year. 

But the wrangling appears to have been caught up in a wider debate over top jobs at the European Union's institutions – with Estonia's Kaja Kallas, another who had proferred her candidacy for the NATO job but subsequently withdrew, now a favourite to be the bloc’s foreign policy chief. 

Once he enters office, Rutte will serve a term of at least four years. 

To be appointed he had to square off opposition from Hungary's Viktor Orbán, who did not want to be forced to support Ukraine.

Rutte assuaged those concerns in a letter sent earlier this week, bringing him one step closer to securing the needed consensus among NATO’s 32 members.  

As NATO chief, Rutte faces a difficult balancing act, as members of the alliance have sought to support war-torn Ukraine without provoking further Russian aggression.  

A further twist may come with US Presidential elections in November, as Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has proven lukewarm over the alliance, even calling on Russia to invade supposed allies that don’t invest in their military.  

Rutte has led the Netherlands since 2010, managing a series of tricky coalitions, but is set to step down on 2 July. Rutte's liberal party the VVD will form part of a coalition led by former spy chief Dick Schoof, after November elections that saw a surge in support for right-wing firebrand Geert Wilders. 

Last weekend, Rutte attended the Ukraine summit in Switzerland, from which he promised the Netherlands will "continue to support Ukraine any way we can. For as long as it takes and with all the backing that is necessary."

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