NATO top-job favorite says dialogue needed with Russia

NATO top-job favorite says dialogue needed with Russia

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said the EU must accept that Russia is “not going away”

The EU will have to build some form of relationship with Russia when the Ukraine conflict ends, outgoing Dutch Prime Minister and the next likely NATO chief Mark Rutte has said.

Rutte visited Finland on Thursday for talks with President Alexander Stubb and Prime Minister Petteri Orpo on European security, including military assistance to Ukraine. Stubb later told reporters that Rutte is likely to become the US-led military bloc’s next secretary general, Reuters reported.

”At this moment, Russia of course is our main adversary, and we have to ensure that Ukraine wins…” Rutte stated 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 said, adding that “at this moment, it’s very difficult to foresee how that will play out.”

NATO’s current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will finish his second term in October and the outgoing Dutch premier is reportedly the preferred successor, having reportedly secured support among the bloc’s member-states. Under NATO rules, the secretary general must be decided “by consensus,” which means Rutte needs the backing of all bloc members.

However, some NATO states, particularly Hungary, have consistently opposed the bloc’s position on the Ukraine conflict, arguing that it is inching closer to war with Russia. Prime Minister Viktor Orban also warned this week of “war psychosis” in the EU over the Ukraine conflict. 

Despite his grievances, Dutch media reported this week that Orban is moving closer to backing Rutte, having apparently received assurances that Hungary would not be required to send troops to Ukraine or fund its conflict with Russia.

Stoltenberg insisted this week that allowing Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia using Western-donated F-16 warplanes would not be an escalation of the conflict and would not make NATO a party to it.

Moscow has warned that Western-backed long-range attacks on Russian territory will indeed amount to direct Western participation in the conflict, and that Russia reserves the right to respond in kind.  

Russia perceives the conflict as part of a US-initiated proxy war against it, given NATO’s increasing military presence in Ukraine, and regards the military bloc’s intention to eventually offer membership to Kiev as a major national security risk.

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