Dutch Prime Minister Rutte has stepped up to lead NATO after winning support from the US and UK, Reuters reported

Dutch Prime Minister Rutte has stepped up to lead NATO after winning support from the US and UK, Reuters reported
© Reuters. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Sarajevo 1/23/2024 REUTERS/Amel Emric

By Andrew Gray and William James

BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) – The United States and Britain announced their support on Thursday for Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as NATO's next secretary-general.

Stoltenberg's successor, who steps down in October, will take over at a critical time, tasked with securing the support of NATO members for Ukraine's costly defense against a Russian invasion.

“President Biden strongly supports Prime Minister Rudd's nomination to be the next NATO Secretary General,” a US official said.

“Prime Minister Rutte has a deep understanding of the importance of the Coalition, is a natural leader and communicator, and his leadership will serve the Coalition well at this critical time.”

Depending on the outcome of the US presidential election in November, the next NATO chief could face a second term for Donald Trump, who has recently raised renewed questions about his commitment to defending NATO allies.

Earlier this month, Trump was heavily criticized by Western officials for suggesting he would not defend countries that failed to meet the alliance's defense spending targets and encouraged Russia to attack them.

But Rutte, already seen as the favorite to take the top NATO post, said on Saturday that Europe should “stop whining, whining and complaining” about Trump and focus on what it can do for Ukraine.

“We have to work with people on the dance floor,” Rutte said at the Munich Security Conference.

Rutte, 57, unexpectedly announced his retirement from Dutch politics in July but remains in the role as interim leader while coalition talks continue after the Nov. 22 election.

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NATO leaders are appointed by consensus, requiring the support — or at least opposition — of all 31 members. Two diplomats said Rutte has so far secured the support of about 20 NATO members.

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