Brussels (Agencies): Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, is poised to become the next Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). His path cleared after Romanian President Klaus Iohannis withdrew from the race. Romania had been the final obstacle for Rutte, who enjoyed backing from 31 out of 32 allies. The Romanian security council now officially supports Rutte’s candidacy, pending confirmation at the July summit. If approved, he will succeed current NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in October.

Iohannis’s office informed NATO of his withdrawal last week. Currently serving his second five-year term as president, Iohannis stepped aside, allowing Rutte to take the lead. Previously, Hungary and Turkey had raised objections to Rutte, but Turkey shifted its stance in April, and Hungary withdrew its de facto veto on Tuesday, as reported by the Associated Press.

Rutte’s leadership will be crucial for NATO. He is expected to prioritize maintaining support for Ukraine during its conflict with Russia and oversee the rapid expansion of NATO’s defense capabilities, according to CNN. However, some critics express concern that Rutte may struggle to persuade hesitant member states to meet the 2% GDP defense spending target agreed upon by NATO. The Netherlands’ defense budget often falls short of this commitment.

Amidst Europe’s tumultuous times and Russia’s efforts to forge its own military alliances with North Korea, Iran, and Cuba, Rutte steps into a critical role. The 32 NATO member states have pledged mutual defense, excluding Ukraine, which remains under Russia’s watchful eye. ???

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