- After 72 years, it is time for the coalition to appoint the first woman to head the government, and given the conflict with Russia, the election of a person from Eastern Europe will send an important signal to Moscow, the author writes
- The main candidate is the former President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was a former Vice President of NATO and was also an ambassador to the United States.
- Another factor is whether the country from which the presidential candidate is coming from meets the NATO target of spending 2% of the money. Defense GDP – This is a symbolic but important determinant
- This would serve incumbent Estonian President Kristi Kaljulaid or Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, although his country may be seen as a bit tough on Russia.
- No nickname from Poland appeared among the dozen or so candidates
At Headquarters, formal talks on Stoltenberg’s successor have just begun, and the new Secretary-General is scheduled to introduce the NATO leaders’ summit in Madrid in late spring or early summer next year.
But speculation in Brussels and other allied capitals has already begun, with some officials, diplomats and analysts saying, after 72 years, that it is time for the Alliance to appoint its first woman to the highest civilian position. Others argue that, given the ongoing conflict with Russia, the election of an Eastern European country would send an important signal to Moscow.
Putting these two imperatives into place, three names quickly appeared at the top of the list of potential candidates: former Croatian Presidents Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Lithuanian Dalia Gryboskach, and current Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.
Former President of Croatia
Grabar-Kitarović, who served as Croatia’s first female president in 2015-2020, has the advantage that she already served at NATO headquarters as Deputy Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy in 2011-2014. Also in this situation, I broke the glass ceiling.
Critics say Grabar-Kitarovic, who has built her political career as a centre-right conservative, tarnished her reputation by turning to the hard right during the failed 2019 presidential re-election campaign.
She shifted to the right under pressure from a populist rival, which led to accusations that she had engaged in “dog whistle” politics, but lost to former center-left prime minister Zoran Milanovic.
(The policy of the dog whistle is to use such language in political communications to win the group’s support without provoking opposition. The concept is named after the ultrasonic whistles of dogs used for herding.)
Nevertheless, Grabar-Kitarovic can boast one of the most impressive resumes among potential future NATO heads – she served as Minister of European Affairs and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia. It played an important role in the country’s successful application of EU and NATO membership.
She was also Croatia’s ambassador to the United States in 2008-2011, which ensured her strong relations with Washington, which would have a decisive influence on the decision on the head of NATO.
As a scholarship recipient from the Sine Institute of Politics and Politics at American University, Grabar-Kitarovi conducted a symposium on the future of NATO, which can serve as a rehearsal for the first-place competition hearings in which she confirmed that she was in Afghanistan as Deputy Secretary-General.
– I liked my work at NATO, the experience of cooperation and the atmosphere – said at the beginning of the lecture, which was also attended by former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the former Dutch Foreign Minister who held the highest office in the alliance from 2004-2009.
De Hoop Scheffer was replaced by former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who preceded Stoltenberg, and some NATO insiders say it is hard to imagine the Allies choosing someone who would not likewise hold a position at the head of state or in government.
Favorite Senior Leaders
This preference for a former head of state has led to recent speculation about former British Prime Minister Theresa May as a possible candidate. Mark Sedwill, who served as Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser under May and briefly under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was also mentioned as a potential UK candidate for NATO.
An influential former ambassador to NATO said there was widespread expectation that the UK would push hard for the secretary-general position as a way to demonstrate its continued influence in post-Brexit Europe.
However, diplomats stress that qualifications will be seen as more important than citizenship, with an emphasis on leadership, management and communication skills. This may rule out May, whose management and communication skills during the Brexit process have come under widespread criticism in the country. Sedwill has never held the position of Secretary of State or Defense – two positions seen as the minimum requirements for any NATO president.
The United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are traditionally seen as the most influential allies in the process of electing the Secretary-General.
But with EU countries making up the overwhelming majority of NATO allies – 21 out of 30 members – and few EU candidate states, post-Brexit Britain may struggle to get support for such a prominent job.
In addition, some EU countries, especially Italy, believe that it is now their turn to take the highest position in NATO. Federica Mogherini, the former Italian foreign minister and former head of EU foreign policy, had previously expressed interest, but diplomats said she would not have Washington’s support and that Enrico Letta, who served as Italy’s prime minister from April 2013 to February 2014, is more From a real Italian filter.
“Britain is keen to have a strong foothold in Brussels,” said a former senior NATO official. The Italians will say it is their turn, for they always say so, and so do the people of the East.
Other Western European officials will likely include Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is currently working on forming a new government coalition, and Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès, who previously served as acting prime minister.
So maybe Eastern Europe?
Some NATO observers say the election of a secretary general from the Baltic states, particularly from Grybuskaite from Lithuania, may be seen as a very hostile gesture toward Moscow as US President Joe Biden attempts to stabilize relations between Russia and the West.
The former senior NATO official said the competition for the Secretary-General position could only be viewed in the context of the broader range of NATO leadership positions that could be taken, and the main question was how many of those positions Americans would like to keep. themselves.
Sedwill, for example, might be more likely to be Deputy Secretary-General – which would give the UK prominence without having to win a popularity contest.
Another factor influencing the decision is whether the country of the candidate for the post of Secretary-General meets the NATO target of spending 2% of the money. Defense GDP – This is a symbolic but important indicator that may increase the chances of Caligulaide, the current President of Estonia.
Kaljulaid recently made an unsuccessful campaign for Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which seems to fit better with her resume. Before becoming president in October 2016, she represented Estonia on the European Union’s Board of Auditors for 12 years.
Romania is another NATO ally to meet the 2% threshold, which could give President Klaus Iohannis a chance to become Secretary-General, although Romania may be seen as a bit tough on Russia.
In contrast, Grabar-Kitarovi about questions about getting to know Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2018 World Cup, when – in a white and red checkered shirt – she was the most visible supporter of Croatia, who advanced to the finals, but lost to France at the Moscow Luzhniki Stadium.
During her seminar at American University, Grabar-Kitarovic demonstrated her ability to repeat Stoltenberg’s pro-NATO cliché that earned him a reputation for disciplined communication — including during the turmoil caused by former US President Donald Trump.
It is very important to remember that NATO is not only a military alliance, it is a political alliance as well as a valuable alliance, Grabar-Kitarovic said. – In NATO, we have a common democratic identity.
Editing: Mishaw Bronatowski