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Rutte seals NATO high job after lone rival drops out

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg meet, on the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
| Photo Credit: REUTERS

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on June 20 clinched the race to grow to be the following head of NATO at a pivotal time for the alliance, after sole challenger Romanian President Klaus Iohannis pulled out.

The veteran politician, 57, is anticipated to be formally named by NATO’s 32 nations within the coming days and may take over when present chief Jens Stoltenberg’s time period ends on October 1.

Mr. Rutte will are available at a dangerous second for the Western allies as Russia’s conflict in Ukraine drags on and Donald Trump battles to reclaim the presidency within the United States come November.

After staking his declare for the job final 12 months following the collapse of his coalition, staunch Ukraine backer Rutte rapidly received the assist of heavyweights the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

But he had to make use of all of the diplomatic abilities gleaned throughout nearly 14 years in command of the Netherlands to win over hold-outs led by Turkey and Hungary.

Mr. Rutte overcame Turkish reticence with an April go to to Istanbul, earlier than lastly sealing a take care of Hungary’s Viktor Orban at a European Union summit this week.

That left the final sticking level as Iohannis, whose shock bid had ruffled feathers amongst allies banking on a clean appointment for Rutte forward of a NATO summit in Washington subsequent month.

Romania’s safety council on June 20 introduced Mr. Iohannis had formally withdrawn and that the nation backed Mr. Rutte.

Trump looming?

Mr. Rutte may have so much on his plate when he assumes the reins from Norway’s former premier Mr. Stoltenberg, who led the alliance by means of its most consequential a long time because the finish of the Cold War.

Just weeks after his four-year time period is anticipated to begin, voters within the United States will go to the polls in a crunch vote to selected between incumbent Joe Biden and Mr. Trump.

The prospect of the risky former President returning to the Oval Office has rattled allies fearful that he may weaken superpower Washington’s position as Europe’s final safety guarantor.

Mr. Trump fuelled these fears on the marketing campaign path by saying he would encourage Russia to assault NATO international locations not spending sufficient on their very own defence.

Like Mr. Stoltenberg, Mr. Rutte received plaudits for his cautious dealing with of Mr. Trump throughout his first time period in energy— when the ex-reality TV star reportedly even mulled pulling the United States out of NATO.

“I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate,” Mr. Stoltenberg mentioned on a go to to Washington Tuesday. “He has a lot of experience as Prime Minister. He’s a close friend and colleague.”

While Mr. Trump’s return may pose one main problem— to NATO’s east Mr. Rutte will face the much more urgent menace from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s forces are at present on the entrance foot in Ukraine after greater than two years of brutal battle, and the NATO chief may have a key position in marshalling assist from Kyiv’s weary backers.

At the identical time, Mr. Rutte must make sure the alliance is able to defend towards any potential future assault from Moscow— if, or extra seemingly when, Mr. Putin is ready to rebuild his forces.

Part of that may contain corralling European allies to spend extra on defence— a key demand from Mr. Trump, and different U.S. leaders.

This week NATO introduced that 23 out of its 32 member international locations had hit the alliance’s goal of spending two % of their gross home product on defence.

‘Teflon Mark’

Dubbed “Teflon Mark” for his potential to stay in energy for therefore lengthy within the Netherlands, Mr. Rutte will grow to be the fourth Dutchman to guide NATO because it emerged from the ashes of World War II to confront the Soviet Union.

The bicycling conservative threw his nation’s financial weight behind Ukraine within the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion— main efforts to ship F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv.

While NATO international locations alongside the alliance’s japanese flank had pushed for one in every of their very own to get the NATO job, Mr. Rutte’s backers insist he’s absolutely conscious of the menace posed by Russia.

Among essentially the most formative occasions throughout his time in command of the Netherlands was the 2014 taking pictures down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, with 196 Dutch among the many 298 killed, that was blamed of Moscow-backed fighters.

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