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US, UK Endorse Dutch Prime Minister for Next NATO Leader

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte attends a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 1, 2024.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte attends a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 1, 2024.

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is one step closer to becoming the next secretary general of NATO after an endorsement by the United States and Britain on Thursday.

"President (Joe) Biden strongly endorses PM Rutte's candidacy to be the next secretary general of NATO," a U.S. official said.

Tthe new NATO secretary-general will take office at a pivotal moment in October, balancing continued support for Ukraine in its ongoing defense against Russia, while also preparing for outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections in November.

Former president Donald Trump, who is expected to face off against incumbent Joe Biden, has repeatedly drawn criticism for not fully committing to defend NATO allies, suggesting earlier this month that Russia could do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries that do not meet their defense spending payments.

Rutte said in response to Trump’s statements that Europe should stop focusing on Trump, and instead direct energy toward supporting Ukraine.

"We have to work with whoever is on the dance floor," Rutte told the Munich Security Conference.

In July, 57-year-old Rutte unexpectedly announced he was leaving Dutch politics after the collapse of his government last year. Rutte is one of Europe’s longest-serving heads of government and the longest-serving leader of the Netherlands. He has been lauded as being practical and personable, making him a competent caretaker for NATO, according to some member states.

While there has been a movement to diversify NATO leadership, which has always been held by European men, Rutte is currently the only official candidate to succeed Jens Stoltenberg. He requires support—or at least no opposition—from all 31 NATO members in order to assume the position. Two diplomats have confirmed he currently has the backing of 20 members so far.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press.

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