Latvian Foreign Minister Karins Signals Interest in NATO Top Job

(Bloomberg) -- Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins is looking to join the list of contenders to succeed NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, a second top politician from the Baltics to express interest.

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Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas previously threw her hat in the ring for the post, which opens up in 2024.

“Provided Latvia would decide to stand for the candidacy of the Secretary General, Dr. Krišjānis Kariņš is ready to join the competition,” according to a statement shared by Karins’ spokesman on Sunday.

The 58-year-old resigned as prime minister in August as his party sought to form a new government.

Read more: Estonian Premier Eyes NATO’s Top Job Even Amid Calls to Resign

According to the statement, he would offer “to contribute to the alliance with his leadership experience as prime minister, clear understanding of Russia’s threat, strong stance on Ukraine, and proven track record as an international consensus builder.”

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Kallas have each expressed interest for the top NATO job. After a fourth extension Stoltenberg’s tenure ends in October and he’s made clear he will step down then.

Read more: Dutch Premier Rutte Says He Is Open to Becoming Next NATO Chief

NATO allies have wanted to consider candidates from different regions and with different profiles than the recent secretary generals, who were Nordic or Dutch men. The decision needs to be unanimous among the 31 allies but the view from the US, which leads the military contributions at NATO, always holds the most weight.

Karins, who was born and raised in the US and holds a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, may face a similar hurdle as Kallas as a vocal critic of Russia. Baltic nations have been seen as too hawkish toward Moscow to lead the alliance.

Allies are hoping to hand the post to another former leader, so while Karins currently serves as his nation’s top envoy, his stint as prime minister may keep him in the running. Karins was PM from 2019 until his recent resignation, and was Latvia’s longest-serving head of government since it regained independence in 1991.

Another important factor is whether the candidate’s country has reached or is nearing the goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on defense.

“The geopolitical situation and the nature of challenges surrounding the North Atlantic Alliance require dynamic, determined, and consensus-based leadership,” Karins’ statement said, adding that under his leadership, “Latvia has consistently met and exceeded the 2% target in defense spending.”

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