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Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister gets top NATO job: Media

Mark Rutte. (Photo/agencies)

Mark Rutte, the outgoing Dutch prime minister, is on course to become the next head of the NATO military alliance, replacing current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, NOS reported on Tuesday, after Hungary and Slovakia backed him.

Stoltenberg neither confirmed nor denied the media report during a press conference together with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington.

“With the announcement of (Hungarian) Prime Minister (Viktor) Orban, I think it is clear that we are very close to a conclusion … to select the next Secretary General, and I think that is good news,” he said to reporters. while praising Rutte.

“I think Mark is a very strong candidate. He is a good friend and colleague, and I am therefore strongly convinced that the alliance will have decided on my successor very soon,” Stoltenberg said.

Orban had indicated that he had no objection to Rutte’s appointment.

Hungary’s close ties with Russia placed Orbán in a position of significant influence when it came to the nomination process.

Hungary is at odds with other NATO countries over Hungary’s ties with Russia and its refusal to send weapons to Ukraine.

Orban’s support means that of the 32 members of the military alliance, only Romania has yet to give its support to Rutte, and that is expected soon.

Turkey and Slovakia have also changed course with regard to Rutte’s offer. Ankara said it would back him in late April and Slovakia announced its support earlier on Tuesday.

Rutte will step down from the domestic role he has held for fourteen years once the new Dutch coalition government is formed.

Under his leadership, the Netherlands has increased defense spending above the 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) threshold required for NATO members, supplying F-16 fighter jets, artillery, drones and ammunition to Kiev and to invest heavily in its own army.

On a global level, Rutte is considered one of the most successful figures within the European Union in dealing with former US President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election later this year.

Last year, at the Munich Security Conference, Rutte told world leaders to stop “whining and whining about Trump” and spend more on their own defense and munitions production.

Stoltenberg’s term ends on October 1, ten years after he took office in 2014. The annual NATO summit will be held in Washington next month, after which Rutte is expected to take over as the new supremo.

After Rutte won the support of almost all alliance members, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday that he would discuss whether to continue his bid to become NATO’s next chief at a meeting of the state defense council on Thursday.

“After (the meeting) I will tell the public. “I can assure you that you will be fully informed by tomorrow afternoon,” he said.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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