Nato appoints Dutchman Rutte as Secretary General

NATO has officially appointed the outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as its new Secretary General. The 57-year-old Rutte will succeed the Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg on October 1, the alliance announced on Wednesday after the Dutchman was nominated by the North Atlantic Council in Brussels. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) called Rutte a “good choice for freedom and security.”

“Our alliance has rarely been as important as it is today,” Scholz explained in the online service X. Rutte’s experience, his security policy expertise and his diplomatic skills are groundbreaking.

Stoltenberg called Rutte a “true transatlanticist, strong leader and consensus broker”. He is leaving NATO in good hands. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced close cooperation with the Dutchman “to further strengthen the EU-NATO partnership”.

Ukraine also congratulated Rutte. “I know Mark Rutte as a principled and strong leader who has demonstrated his determination and vision on many occasions in recent years,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on the online service X.

Rutte himself called his appointment a “tremendous honour”. “The Alliance is and remains the cornerstone of our collective security,” he stressed at X.

Russia, meanwhile, does not expect any changes in its relationship with NATO. It is unlikely that Rutte’s appointment “can change anything in NATO’s general line,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The Western military alliance is currently “hostile” to Russia.

Only last week, Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis withdrew his candidacy, clearing the way for Rutte. Hungary and Slovakia had previously given up their opposition to the Dutchman, citing promises as the reason for this.

Time was running out for a decision: NATO wants to present Rutte as the new Secretary General at its anniversary summit in Washington at the beginning of July. He will be the fourth Dutchman to hold this position since the transatlantic alliance was founded over 75 years ago.

The USA, Germany, Great Britain and France had already spoken out in favour of Rutte in February. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said that the Dutchman was an “outstanding candidate” with his “immense experience, his great security policy expertise and his pronounced diplomatic skills”.

Rutte takes over the post of Secretary General at a difficult time in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. NATO is also preparing for a possible re-election of former US President Donald Trump and a weaker role for the USA.

The NATO countries hope that Rutte, who has international experience, will be able to hold the alliance together with diplomatic skill and organize further aid for Ukraine. Rutte has been head of government of the Netherlands for almost 14 years. He knows Trump from his first term in office, when the Republican declared NATO “obsolete” and urged the Europeans to increase defense spending.

Meanwhile, 23 of the 32 member states, including Germany, meet the requirement of spending at least two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. Rutte, like Stoltenberg, is likely to put pressure on Italy and other countries to comply. The Netherlands are just about meeting the requirement this year.

Rutte is likely to continue Stoltenberg’s uncompromising stance towards Russia. The Dutchman recently said: “Ukraine must win this fight – for its security and ours.”

Stoltenberg is stepping down after ten years as NATO Secretary General. The alliance had difficulty finding a successor and had to extend the Norwegian’s term of office twice.

Rutte had been looking for a new position since his liberal-conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) lost the parliamentary elections in November to right-wing populist Geert Wilders. In the Netherlands, Rutte is considered a “Teflon” man because he has survived numerous crises and scandals.