Orban Backs Rutte for NATO Chief

World | June 18, 2024, Tuesday // 14:21
Bulgaria: Orban Backs Rutte for NATO Chief

Hungary has dropped its opposition to Mark Rutte's candidacy for NATO secretary general after a meeting between Rutte and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during the EU leaders' council in Brussels, as reported by media outlets in the Netherlands, Agence France-Presse, and the Financial Times. Reports indicate that Budapest no longer demands an apology from the outgoing Dutch prime minister regarding his comments on Hungarian democracy.

Only the British publication mentions that Rutte has "made an offer" to Hungary, the most pro-Russian country in the EU and NATO, promising that under his potential leadership, Hungary would not have to participate in NATO actions supporting Ukraine, including financial contributions. Reuters noted that this commitment had already been made the previous week by the current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who will remain in office until October. Rutte is expected to leave his position in July.

Slovakia has shown its preference for a new NATO Secretary General who is geographically closer, supporting Mark Rutte for the role. President Peter Pellegrini, whose party is an ally of Prime Minister Robert Fico, made this announcement, indirectly referencing the Romanian president Klaus Iohannis's candidacy.

The outgoing Dutch prime minister has garnered support from key alliance members such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Hungary's recent agreement leaves Rutte awaiting only Romania's position. Since 2019, Romania's Mircea Geoana has held the position of deputy NATO Secretary General, marking a first for a post-Cold War member country.

Meanwhile, current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that China must face consequences if it continues supporting Russia's war in Ukraine. In an interview with the BBC, he noted that Beijing's dual approach—supporting Russia's military efforts while maintaining relations with European allies—is unsustainable.

Stoltenberg, speaking from Washington, highlighted that China provides critical technologies, such as microelectronics, essential for Russia's missile and weapons production used against Ukraine. He suggested that if China does not alter its behavior, it will eventually face economic repercussions.

China, where about 20 firms (including those based in Hong Kong) were sanctioned by the US last month for supporting Russia, has defended its business dealings with Moscow, insisting it does not sell lethal weapons and adheres to laws regarding dual-use items.

"The purpose of NATO is not to wage war, but to prevent war," stated Stoltenberg, echoing NATO's defensive stance. He also remarked that Russia is increasingly aligning with authoritarian regimes like Iran, China, and North Korea, which allegedly sent missiles to Russia in exchange for technology for their missile and nuclear programs.

Ahead of a meeting with US President Joe Biden, Stoltenberg noted that more than 20 NATO countries are expected to meet the 2% defense spending target this year, the highest since the commitment was made in 2014. He emphasized that increased defense spending benefits both Europe and America, particularly as a significant portion of the funds are spent in the US.

Stoltenberg's comments to The Sunday Telegraph suggested that NATO might consider increasing its nuclear warhead deployment as a deterrent against rising threats from Russia and China. The Kremlin criticized these remarks, calling them an escalation of tensions.

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Tags: rutte, NATO, Orban, Stoltenberg

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