And then there was one: Mark Rutte. Romania’s president withdraws from the race for NATO chief


BRUSSELS (AP) — Romania’s president has withdrawn from the race to become NATO’s next secretary general, leaving outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte all but certain to head the world’s biggest military organization from October.

The office of President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement that Romania’s security council has backed Rutte’s bid. It also said that Iohannis had informed NATO late last week that he intended to pull out.

His withdrawal removes the last real hurdle Rutte might face. It should allow NATO to put on a show of unity and demonstrate solidarity with war-ravaged Ukraine when U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts meet in Washington on July 9-11 to mark NATO’s 75th birthday.

NATO secretaries-general are responsible for chairing meetings and guiding sometimes delicate consultations among the 32 member countries to ensure that an organization that operates on consensus can continue to function.

On Tuesday, Hungary lifted its veto on Rutte’s candidacy after the long-serving Dutch prime minister gave written guarantees that he would not force Budapest to take part in the military alliance’s new plans to provide support to Ukraine should he be appointed.

Turkey had also voiced opposition to Rutte’s bid but lifted its objections in April.

Rutte has for months been the preferred candidate of the majority of NATO allies, including big members like the United States and Germany.

In office for a decade, outgoing Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has been a steady hand at NATO’s helm and has proved difficult to replace.

Biden and his NATO counterparts had been due to name a successor when they met in Lithuania in July 2023, but no consensus could be found about a replacement.

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