Dutch PM says it’s a ‘tremendous honour’ after he is appointed to lead the alliance from October.

Transatlantic military alliance NATO has appointed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as its next chief, entrusting him with the leadership role during a critical time for European security amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Rutte’s appointment on Wednesday was a formality after his only rival for the post, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, announced last week that he had quit the race, having failed to gain traction.

Ambassadors from the alliance’s 32 members took the decision at a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

He will take over from Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on October 1, NATO said in a statement.

Rutte gained early support from key members of the alliance, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, after declaring his interest in the post last year.

He called it a “tremendous honour” and described NATO as a “cornerstone of our collective security”, in a post on X.

Other countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe, had argued the job should go to someone from their region for the first time, but they eventually supported Rutte.

Hungary lifted its objections earlier this month once Rutte agreed that the country would not be obligated in the future to send personnel or provide funds for a new support plan for Ukraine.

Turkey had also voiced opposition to Rutte’s bid but relented in April.

NATO takes decisions by consensus so Rutte, who is bowing out of Dutch politics after nearly 14 years as prime minister, could only be confirmed once all the alliance members backed him.

Stoltenberg, who led NATO for a decade, said he welcomed the selection of Rutte as his successor.

“Mark is a true transatlanticist, a strong leader, and a consensus-builder,” he said. “I know I am leaving NATO in good hands.”

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, took over the alliance’s leadership in 2014, a few months after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Congratulating Rutte, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was confident that the incoming chief will keep NATO “strong and united, as we work to strengthen our collective defence and support Ukraine’s fight for freedom”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Rutte as a “principled and strong leader, who has demonstrated his decisiveness and vision on many occasions over the past years”.

Rutte will face the challenge of sustaining allies’ support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion while guarding against NATO being drawn directly into a war with Moscow.

The Kremlin said the appointment will not “change anything”. Rutte has been a tough critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a staunch ally of Ukraine.

He will also have to contend with the possibility that NATO-sceptic former US President Donald Trump may return to the White House after November’s election.

Trump’s possible return has unnerved NATO leaders as the Republican had called into question the US willingness to support other members of the alliance if they were attacked.

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Aljazera

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