Evaluation-NATO struggles within the shadows to search out new chief By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Banners displaying the NATO brand are positioned on the entrance of latest NATO headquarters in the course of the transfer to the brand new constructing, in Brussels, Belgium April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman


By Andrew Grey

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The race to be the subsequent NATO boss is heating up. However it’s a race run largely at nighttime, with no signal of a winner but.

Jens Stoltenberg, the transatlantic army alliance’s Norwegian secretary-general, is because of step down on the finish of September after 9 years in put up.

Many alliance members would love his succession settled at, and even earlier than, a NATO summit in Lithuania in mid-July.

That doesn’t give NATO’s 31 nations, spanning from america by means of new member Finland to Turkey, a lot time to forge the consensus wanted to choose a brand new chief. They might additionally ask Stoltenberg to increase his time period for a fourth time.

Whoever takes the reins will accomplish that at a important time, dealing with the dual challenges of protecting allies collectively in supporting Ukraine whereas guarding towards any escalation that might draw NATO straight right into a battle with Russia.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace declared final week that he would love the job. However, as some governments push for a primary feminine NATO secretary-general, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen can be rising as a severe contender.

Although a really public function, the competition is extraordinarily opaque, performed out primarily in consultations amongst leaders and diplomats. These consultations proceed till all NATO members agree they’ve reached a consensus.

Jamie Shea, a former senior NATO official who served with the alliance for 38 years, mentioned leaders can be searching for a extremely expert politician, communicator and diplomat.

“Holding the household collectively, protecting everyone on board continually, being in contact with all the allies to just remember to’re addressing their issues, is a crucial a part of the job,” mentioned Shea, now with the Chatham Home assume tank.


Many diplomats see Wallace as a protracted shot for the job, though he’s extensively revered throughout the alliance. The need to choose a lady counts towards him with some members.

Many would additionally desire a former prime minister or president to make sure NATO’s boss has top-level political clout. Stoltenberg, 64, was prime minister of Norway.

And a few, notably France, need somebody from a European Union nation, hoping for nearer cooperation between NATO and the EU.

Frederiksen meets all the above standards. Though she says she is just not a candidate, she has stopped in need of saying she is just not within the job. NATO diplomats say that behind the scenes she is being critically thought-about.

Frederiksen’s title first surfaced publicly in a report by Norwegian newspaper VG final month and there was a flurry of media curiosity once more this week when the White Home introduced she would go to U.S. President Joe Biden in early June.

“I am not making use of for any job postings,” she informed reporters in Copenhagen on Wednesday, taking part in down hypothesis that the go to may quantity to a job interview for the NATO function.

Whereas the put up historically goes to a European, any severe candidate wants buy-in from Washington, NATO’s dominant energy.

A supply aware of U.S. considering mentioned the Biden administration doesn’t but have a favoured candidate and a “energetic debate” amongst prime aides was ongoing.

A State Division spokesperson mentioned it was “too early within the course of to take a position on who america will assist”.

Social Democrat Frederiksen, 45, turned Denmark’s youngest prime minister in 2019. She was praised for disaster administration within the COVID-19 pandemic and received a second time period final yr.

She must hand over her put up as prime minister if she received the NATO job, which political commentators have mentioned would convey her fragile authorities to the brink of collapse.

And a marketing campaign for the NATO put up wouldn’t be plain crusing.

Her nation falls nicely in need of the NATO purpose of spending 2% of GDP on defence. Denmark is at 1.38%, though Frederiksen has pledged to hurry up efforts to hit the goal.

Some allies additionally argue the job ought to go to an Jap European for the primary time, significantly as Russia’s battle in Ukraine has made that area much more vital for NATO.

If Frederiksen received the job, she could be the third NATO boss in a row from a Nordic nation.


Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen of Germany and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland have additionally featured in discussions amongst diplomats and media studies.

However diplomats say Kallas is seen as too hawkish on Russia for some NATO members, Berlin needs von der Leyen to remain on the Fee, and Freeland faces main headwinds as a non-European from a rustic thought-about a laggard on defence spending.

Different names that always come up are veteran Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

However Rutte has insisted he doesn’t need the job. And Sanchez has a basic election to struggle later this yr.

Some diplomats additionally suspect many mooted candidates could also be unacceptable to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who’s extensively anticipated to be re-elected on Sunday and has proven no qualms about blocking NATO consensus.

Turkey, together with Hungary, is holding up Swedish membership of NATO.

The obvious scarcity of candidates with widespread assist raises the opportunity of Stoltenberg’s tenure being prolonged once more, maybe till one other NATO summit in 2024.

Stoltenberg has mentioned he’s not in search of to remain longer. However he has not mentioned how he would reply if requested to take action.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.