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Rutte secures NATO top job as Lone Rival drops out

Rutte secures NATO top job as Lone Rival drops out

Rutte secures NATO top job as Lone Rival drops out

Rutte secures NATO top job as Lone Rival drops out

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  • Rutte used his diplomatic skills to persuade hold-outs led by Turkey and Hungary, 
  • Romania’s security council announced that Iohannis had formally withdrawn and endorsed Rutte.
  • Rutte will inherit a substantial agenda from Norway’s former premier, Jens Stoltenberg.
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Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte clinched the race to become the next head of NATO on Thursday, at a pivotal time for the alliance, after Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, the sole challenger, withdrew. NATO’s 32 nations are expected to formally name the 57-year-old veteran politician in the coming days, and he is set to assume the role when current chief Jens Stoltenberg’s term ends on October 1.

Entering at a perilous moment for Western allies with Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and Donald Trump’s bid to reclaim the US presidency in November, Rutte quickly garnered support from heavyweights like the United States, Britain, France, and Germany after staking his claim for the job last year following the collapse of his coalition.

However, he had to employ all the diplomatic skills he acquired during almost 14 years leading the Netherlands to persuade hold-outs led by Turkey and Hungary. Rutte addressed Turkish reticence with an April visit to Istanbul, and he ultimately secured a deal with Hungary’s Viktor Orban at a European Union summit this week.

The last sticking point remained with Iohannis, whose surprise bid had unsettled allies expecting a smooth appointment for Rutte before a NATO summit in Washington next month. Romania’s security council announced on Thursday that Iohannis had formally withdrawn and that the country endorsed Rutte. When Rutte takes over from Norway’s former premier Stoltenberg, who guided the alliance through its most significant decades since the end of the Cold War, he will inherit a substantial agenda.

Just weeks after his expected four-year term begins, voters in the United States will head to the polls for a crucial election to decide between incumbent Joe Biden and Trump. Allies are rattled by the prospect of the volatile former president returning to the Oval Office, fearing he could diminish Washington’s role as Europe’s ultimate security guarantor. Trump amplified these concerns on the campaign trail by stating he would urge Russia to attack NATO countries that do not meet their defense spending commitments.

Like Stoltenberg, Rutte earned praise for carefully handling Trump during his first term in power — a period when the former reality TV star reportedly considered withdrawing the United States from NATO.

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“I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate,” Stoltenberg said on a visit to Washington Tuesday. “He has a lot of experience as prime minister. He’s a close friend and colleague.”

While Trump’s return could present one major challenge to NATO’s eastern flank, Rutte will confront a far more immediate threat from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kremlin forces currently hold the advantage in Ukraine after more than two years of brutal conflict, and the NATO chief will play a crucial role in coordinating aid from Kyiv’s exhausted supporters. Simultaneously, Rutte must ensure the alliance is prepared to defend against any potential future aggression from Moscow, anticipating that Putin will likely rebuild his forces.

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Dutch PM Rutte gains US and UK support, to become NATO chief
Dutch PM Rutte gains US and UK support, to become NATO chief

The US and Britain strongly endorse Rutte's candidacy for the post. US...

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