NATO selects Netherlands’ Mark Rutte as next secretary general

BRUSSELS — NATO allies have chosen Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the alliance’s next Secretary General, as the war in Ukraine continues and uncertainties linger over the United States’ commitment to transatlantic cooperation.

Rutte’s appointment was confirmed after his only rival, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, withdrew from the race last week.

“The North Atlantic Council decided to appoint Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the next Secretary General of NATO, succeeding Jens Stoltenberg,” NATO said in a statement. “Mr. Rutte will assume his functions as Secretary General from October 1, 2024, when Mr. Stoltenberg’s term expires after ten years at the helm of the Alliance.”

Rutte garnered early support from major NATO members, including the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, after expressing his interest in the position last year. Some Eastern European countries initially argued that the role should go to someone from their region for the first time but ultimately backed Rutte, recognizing his strong stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin and unwavering support for Ukraine.

Stoltenberg welcomed Rutte’s selection warmly, stating, “Mark is a true transatlanticist, a strong leader, and a consensus-builder. I know I am leaving NATO in good hands.”

NATO makes decisions by consensus, and Rutte’s confirmation required the backing of all 32 alliance members. Rutte, who is stepping down from Dutch politics after nearly 14 years as prime minister, will face the challenge of maintaining allied support for Ukraine while ensuring NATO does not become directly involved in the conflict with Moscow.

He will also need to navigate the potential return of NATO-skeptic Donald Trump to the White House, a prospect that has concerned NATO leaders. During his presidency, Trump questioned the U.S. commitment to defending other NATO members if they were attacked, creating uncertainty about future U.S. support for the alliance.