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NATO confirms new chief

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called Russia an “adversary” and vowed to continue supporting Ukraine

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been officially appointed as the next NATO secretary general, replacing the long-serving Jens Stoltenberg, the US-led military bloc has announced. Rutte will take up the post on October 1.

The decision to appoint the 57-year-old veteran politician, the longest-serving prime minister in Dutch history, who is known for his staunch support of Ukraine and consensus-building skills, was made on Wednesday by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s main political decision-making body.

Writing on X (formerly known as Twitter) Rutte said that the appointment was “a tremendous honor” for him, adding that “the Alliance is and will remain the cornerstone of our collective security” while praising Stoltenberg for “outstanding leadership for the past 10 years.” 

Rutte selection came after months of wrangling for the post, with candidates including, among others, former UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. Rutte’s appointment was all but set in stone after Iohannis became the last serious rival to drop out of the race last week, while Hungary and Slovakia indicated they would back the Dutch politician.

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Hungary agreed to support Rutte after it was allowed to opt out of the bloc’s efforts to support Kiev, while Slovakia backed his candidacy in exchange for assurances that NATO would defend its airspace.

The appointment of Rutte comes as NATO countries continue to provide Ukraine with large-scale military support. The Dutch prime minister has described Russia as an “adversary” while advocating aiding Ukraine. At the same time, Rutte said earlier this month while the West must “ensure that Ukraine wins,” “Russia will not go away… and we have to find in the longer term a form of relationship with Russia.” 

Meanwhile, Politico also dubbed Rutte a “Trump whisperer,” crediting him with defusing at least one tense standoff between the former US president and NATO leaders over defense spending in 2018. Commenting on Trump’s possible return to the White House after the US presidential election in November and the potential impact this would have on NATO, Rutte urged the bloc to “stop moaning and whining” about the GOP frontrunner. “We have to work with whoever is on the dance floor,” he stated at the Munich Security Conference in February.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested on Wednesday that NATO was unlikely to change its overall policy towards Russia with Rutte at its helm. “At the moment, the alliance is hostile to us,” he added.

June 26, 2024 at 07:31PM

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