Putin critic, Mark Rutte Confirmed as Next NATO Secretary-General


AMSTERDAM, June 26 (Reuters) – Mark Rutte, a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a strong ally of Ukraine, has been confirmed as NATO’s next secretary-general. Rutte, who has served as Dutch prime minister for nearly 14 years, is renowned for his political deal-making skills.

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At 57, Rutte has been instrumental in driving Europe’s military support for Ukraine following Russia’s 2022 invasion. He believes Moscow’s defeat on the battlefield is essential for securing peace in Europe, a stance deeply influenced by the 2014 downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine, which the Netherlands attributes to Russia. Of the 298 victims, 196 were Dutch.

“NATO must be powerful to counter Moscow, and European Union leaders must not be naive about Putin’s Russia,” Rutte stated. “He won’t stop at Ukraine if we don’t stop him now. This war is bigger than Ukraine itself. It’s about upholding the international rule of law,” he told the United Nations in September 2022.

Rutte first took office in 2010, becoming the longest-serving Dutch prime minister before announcing his intention to leave national politics last year. Following the MH17 tragedy, Rutte transitioned from a domestic focus to becoming a key EU dealmaker, significantly influencing European policies on immigration, debt, and COVID-19 response.

Under his leadership, the Netherlands has met NATO’s defense spending threshold of 2% of GDP and has provided substantial military aid to Ukraine, including F-16 fighter jets, artillery, drones, and ammunition. Rutte’s path to succeeding Jens Stoltenberg as NATO chief was solidified after Romania’s president withdrew his candidacy, leaving Rutte with the support of the other 31 NATO member countries.

“Mark is a true transatlanticist, a strong leader, and a consensus-builder,” Stoltenberg said. “I know I am leaving NATO in good hands.”

Stoltenberg’s tenure saw NATO’s expansion with the inclusion of Montenegro, North Macedonia, Finland, and Sweden. Although some NATO members favored Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Rutte emerged as the preferred candidate due to concerns about Kallas’s perceived hawkish stance toward Russia.

Rutte will officially step down as prime minister when the new right-wing Dutch government takes over from his center-right coalition. He has spent his life in The Hague and had considered a teaching career post-politics but cited the war in Ukraine as his motivation for pursuing an international role.

Rutte is a strong supporter of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whom he met in Kyiv five years ago. “It was clear even then: this is a man with a mission … I am convinced that Ukraine’s success largely depends on the mentality he conveyed from the very beginning,” Rutte told Reuters in April.

Despite his warnings about Putin, Rutte has suggested that the Russian leader is not as formidable as perceived. “Don’t mentally overestimate Putin. I’ve talked to the man a lot. He’s not a strong man, he’s not a strong guy,” Rutte remarked during an April parliamentary debate.

Rutte solidified his bid for NATO leadership last year by co-leading an international coalition to deliver F-16 fighters to Ukraine and train Ukrainian pilots. In his final months as prime minister, he also signed a 10-year security pact with Ukraine, guaranteeing Dutch support despite opposition from far-right leader and election-winner Geert Wilders.

Rutte has built strong relationships with British and U.S. leaders and is noted for his effective dealings with former U.S. President Donald Trump, who is running for re-election. This experience may prove valuable, as Trump’s possible return has caused concern among NATO leaders due to his previous doubts about U.S. commitment to the alliance.

At last year’s Munich Security Conference, Rutte urged leaders to increase defense spending and ammunition production, regardless of the U.S. election outcome, emphasizing the need for self-reliance within NATO.

David Okafor
David Okaforhttp://naija247news.com
David Okafor Foreign Affairs Editor, Naija247news Media Group David Okafor is the Foreign Affairs Editor at Naija247news Media Group, with over five years of experience in international journalism. He excels in delivering insightful and impactful coverage of global politics and economic trends. Holding a degree in International Relations, David is known for his investigative skills and editorial leadership. His work ensures Naija247news provides accurate and comprehensive analysis of world events, earning him respect in the media industry.

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