• Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte seems likely to become NATO’s next secretary general since Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has withdrawn from the race.
  • Hungary lifted its veto on Rutte’s candidacy after Rutte guaranteed he would not force the country to take part in NATO’s plans to provide support to Ukraine.
  • Outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has proved difficult to replace. The next NATO leader was supposed to be named in July 2023, but no consensus could be reached on the matter.

Romania’s president has withdrawn from the race to become NATO’s next secretary general, leaving outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte all but certain to head the world’s biggest military organization from October.

The office of President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement that Romania’s security council has backed Rutte’s bid. It also said that Iohannis had informed NATO late last week that he intended to pull out.

His withdrawal removes the last real hurdle Rutte might face. It should allow NATO to put on a show of unity and demonstrate solidarity with war-ravaged Ukraine when U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts meet in Washington on July 9-11 to mark NATO’s 75th birthday.

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NATO secretaries-general are responsible for chairing meetings and guiding sometimes delicate consultations among the 32 member countries to ensure that an organization that operates on consensus can continue to function.

Netherland's Prime Minister Mark Rutte addresses the media at the end of an EU summit in Brussels.

Netherland’s outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte addresses the media at the end of an EU summit in Brussels on June 18, 2024. Since Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has withdrawn from the race to become NATO’s next secretary general, Rutte seems likely to get the job. (AP Photo/Omar Havana)

On Tuesday, Hungary lifted its veto on Rutte’s candidacy after the long-serving Dutch prime minister gave written guarantees that he would not force Budapest to take part in the military alliance’s new plans to provide support to Ukraine should he be appointed.

Turkey had also voiced opposition to Rutte’s bid but lifted its objections in April.

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Rutte has for months been the preferred candidate of the majority of NATO allies, including big members like the United States and Germany.

In office for a decade, outgoing Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has been a steady hand at NATO’s helm and has proved difficult to replace.

Biden and his NATO counterparts had been due to name a successor when they met in Lithuania in July 2023, but no consensus could be found about a replacement.

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