Likely Next NATO Chief Calls for Dialogue with Russia

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has stated that the European Union must accept that Russia will remain a significant factor in the region.

Rutte, who is considered the frontrunner to become the next NATO Secretary General, has emphasized the need for the EU to establish a relationship with Russia following the conclusion of the Ukraine conflict. During a visit to Finland on Thursday, Rutte held discussions with President Alexander Stubb and Prime Minister Petteri Orpo regarding European security, including military assistance to Ukraine. Stubb subsequently confirmed that Rutte is likely to be selected as the next head of the US-led military alliance, as reported by Reuters.

”At this moment, Russia of course is our main adversary, and we have to ensure that Ukraine wins…” Rutte remarked at a press conference following his meeting with Orpo.

“Russia will not go away… and we have to find in the longer term a form of relationship with Russia,” he asserted, acknowledging that “at this moment, it’s very difficult to foresee how that will play out.”

Jens Stoltenberg, the current NATO Secretary General, will complete his second term in October. Rutte is widely seen as the preferred successor, having reportedly secured support from a majority of the bloc’s member-states. Under NATO regulations, the selection of the Secretary General requires “consensus,” meaning that Rutte needs the approval of all member states.

However, certain NATO members, particularly Hungary, have consistently opposed the bloc’s stance on the Ukraine conflict, arguing that it is escalating towards a confrontation with Russia. Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently expressed concerns about a “war psychosis” within the EU stemming from the Ukraine conflict.

Despite his disagreements, Dutch media reported this week that Orban is leaning towards supporting Rutte’s candidacy, having reportedly received assurances that Hungary would not be obligated to deploy troops to Ukraine or contribute financially to its conflict with Russia.

Stoltenberg maintained this week that authorizing Ukraine to strike targets within Russia using Western-supplied F-16 fighter jets would not constitute an escalation of the conflict and would not make NATO a participant in it.

Moscow has issued warnings that Western-backed long-range attacks on Russian territory would indeed signify direct Western involvement in the conflict and that Russia reserves the right to retaliate.

Russia views the conflict as part of a US-orchestrated proxy war against it, citing NATO’s expanding military presence in Ukraine and its intent to eventually offer membership to Kyiv as major national security threats.