Rutte Becomes Sole Candidate for NATO Chief After Romanian President Withdraws

Romania’s president has withdrawn his candidacy for NATO’s next secretary general, leaving outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte the likely frontrunner to lead the world’s largest military organization starting in October.

The office of President Klaus Iohannis stated that Romania’s security council has endorsed Rutte’s candidacy. It also confirmed that Iohannis informed NATO last week about his decision to withdraw.

His withdrawal eliminates the last significant obstacle Rutte might have faced. It should enable NATO to present a unified front and demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine, which has been ravaged by war, when U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts convene in Washington from July 9-11 for a summit.

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

On Tuesday, Hungary lifted its objections to Rutte’s nomination after the long-serving Dutch prime minister provided written assurances that he would not compel Budapest to participate in the military alliance’s new plans to support Ukraine, should he be appointed.

Turkey had also expressed opposition to Rutte’s candidacy but withdrew its objections in April.

Rutte has been the favored candidate of a majority of NATO allies for months, including major members such as the United States and Germany.

In office for a decade, outgoing has been a consistent leader at NATO’s helm and has proven challenging to replace.

Biden and his NATO counterparts were scheduled to name a successor at their meeting in Lithuania in July 2023, but they could not reach a consensus on a replacement.