Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has emerged as the top contender for succeeding Jens Stoltenberg as NATO's next Secretary-General. Despite recent political upheavals in his home country, including a startling far-right electoral victory, Rutte's position in the race remains unshaken. Other notable candidates in the running include Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and former Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins.
Rutte's potential ascendancy to NATO leadership
Rutte, previously reluctant to consider the role, has expressed openness following his unexpected resignation last summer. His experience of 13 years as Dutch Prime Minister and recognition on the global stage make him a strong candidate. Major NATO members, including the USA, UK, France, and Germany, have shown their support for Rutte. However, his candidacy may face last-minute negotiations and potential opposition from allies like Turkey and Hungary.
The recent victory of far-right politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands has sent shockwaves across Europe and could pose a challenge for Rutte's candidacy. Some argue that the political turmoil in his home country could negatively impact his chances. Nonetheless, Rutte's supporters emphasize his awareness of the threats posed by Russia and his potential to manage relations with influential figures such as Donald Trump, if he were to regain power.
The future of NATO leadership
NATO allies have expressed varying preferences for the next leader, including desires for a woman at the helm or a representative from a country that meets the defense spending target of 2% of GDP, a goal the Netherlands has committed to achieving next year. Rutte has demonstrated support for Ukraine, recently pledging an additional two billion euros and advocating for Kiev to receive F-16 fighter jets. The final decision on Stoltenberg's successor, expected before the July summit in Washington, will be made by the member states. If elected, Rutte would become the fourth Dutch leader of NATO, a fact critics argue exposes a lack of diversity in the alliance's leadership.