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NATO appoints Mark Rutte alliance's next boss

June 26, 2024

NATO allies appointed outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as its next secretary general. The alliance's soon-to-be former head hailed his successor as a "true transatlanticist, strong leader and consensus-builder."

Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte meets President Xi Jinping in China on March 27, 2024.
Rutte's appointment became set after the withdrawal of his only rival, Romanian President Klaus IohannisImage: Remko de Waal/ANP/IMAGO

NATO allies on Wednesday selected outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the alliance's top job, as members and NATO itself continue to face the repercussions of Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.

Rutte's eventual appointment to the secretary general position was clear last week after his only rival for the post, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, stepped out of the running.

Stoltenberg hands over to Rutte

The Dutch politician described his appointment as a "tremendous honor."

"The Alliance is and will remain the cornerstone of our collective security," he said on social media. "Leading this organisation is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I’m grateful to all the Allies for placing their trust in me."

Rutte is due to take over from the current secretary general, Norway's Jens Stoltenberg, on October 1. Stoltenberg, who served at the top job for over a decade, hailed Rutte as a "true transatlanticist, strong leader and consensus-builder."

"I wish him every success as we continue to strengthen NATO for the challenges of today and tomorrow. I know I am leaving NATO in good hands," he added.  

NATO ambassadors sealed Rutte's appointments during the Wednesday meeting at the headquarters in Brussels. The new boss shall be formally welcomed at a summit in Washington on July 9-11.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock issued "heartfelt congratulations" to Rutte online.

"You will maneuver our alliance safely through rough weather. I'm looking forward to the cooperation," Baerbock wrote. 

Rutte's road to Brussels

A staunch backer of Ukraine, the 57-year-old Rutte staked his claim for the job last year after the collapse of his Dutch ruling coalition. He quickly gained the support of NATO heavyweights the United States, Britain, France, and Germany.

But Rutte's road to NATO was not entirely straightforward. Hungary long objected to his candidacy and only lifted its objection earlier this month after Rutte agreed that the country has no future obligations to send personnel or provide funds for a new Ukraine support plan.

Turkey had also initially objected to Rutte's nomination but withdrew its objection in April.

Secretaries general are responsible for chairing the alliance's meetings and guiding consultations among member allies, often a delicate task. They should also make sure decisions are put into action.

Dutch PM Rutte set to become next NATO head

rmt/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)