July 16, 2024

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Politico: Five challenges facing the next NATO Secretary General, Mark Rutte

Politico: Five challenges facing the next NATO Secretary General, Mark Rutte

4. The grievances of the eastern side

The countries bordering Russia are not Rutte’s biggest fans.

They were angry at the decline in Dutch defense spending, and particularly upset that the top role in NATO had always gone to Western or Northern European countries, even though the countries of the eastern side had been in the alliance for a quarter of a century.

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has not entered the race for NATO’s top job after being told she would not have the support of countries such as the US, France and Germany (she is now the front-runner to be the EU’s next foreign secretary). They feared that Moscow would view her appointment as an escalation in hostilities. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who ran for the position, only got Hungary – briefly and only for tactical reasons – to support him.

The Eastern Flank countries are now likely to request better representation at NATO’s secondary level: the Deputy Secretary General (DSG) position, and various Assistant Secretary General (ASG) positions.

Job distribution has been a sore point for Eastern countries for some time. While the outgoing DSG is Romanian, all seven support assistants are from the West – two from the US, and one each from Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Italy and France. Another ASG position is vacant.

In fact, one of Rutte’s first tasks as NATO chief will be to name a deputy, and there will be pressure for him to appoint someone from an eastern country.

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