Outgoing Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte appointed as NATO chief

NATO's 32 nations on Wednesday appointed outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the alliance's next head to take over in October. The annoucement comes at a tense time with Russia on the march in Ukraine and US elections looming.

Rutte will take over from Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on 1 October after major powers – spearheaded by the United States – wrapped up his nomination ahead of a summit of NATO leaders in Washington next month.

"I warmly welcome NATO Allies' choice of Mark Rutte as my successor. Mark is a true transatlanticist, a strong leader and a consensus-builder," Stoltenberg said on social media after NATO ambassadors approved the appointment.

"I know I am leaving NATO in good hands," he added.

The seasoned Dutch leader, whose 14-year tenure in charge of the Netherlands is set to end within weeks, is seen as a safe pair of hands capable of stewarding the 75-year-old alliance through perilous times.

While the 57-year-old faces the spectre of a possible return by former US president Donald Trump to the White House, Rutte will also have to grapple with the threat posed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Staunch supporter of Ukraine

After staking a claim for the NATO post following the collapse of his coalition last year, Rutte had to use all his diplomatic skills to win over reluctant allies Turkey and Hungary.

He finally clinched the race for the top job last week when sole challenger Romanian President Klaus Iohannis dropped out.

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