Ursula von der Leyen in the running to be next Nato chief
Ursula von der Leyen is in the running to be the next head of Nato, despite concerns about her record on defence policy and fears the alliance could become a stooge of the EU.
Sources close to discussions told the Sunday Telegraph that the European Commission chair was an outsider in the race to replace Jens Stoltenberg, who has served as Secretary General for almost nine years after extending his three-year term twice.
There have not yet been any official declarations to replace him and runners and riders are expected to emerge in the next month.
However, UK sources have expressed concerns about Ms von der Leyen’s suitability after it was reported in the Sun newspaper that she was considering putting herself forward for it.
As Germany’s defence minister, she was accused by her predecessor Rupert Scholz of leaving the Bundeswehr, the country’s armed forces, in a “catastrophic” state.
The EU chief was accused of underfunding and resourcing Germany’s military while in the post between 2013 and 2019 in the lead-up to the war in Ukraine.
In June last year Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor, was forced to announce a €100bn rescue package for the country’s military amid concerns about weapons, armed vehicles and ammunition reserves.
The Nato Secretary General is appointed on an opaque system of unanimity between the allied states, giving each country an effective veto.
But in reality the organisation’s chair is chosen through extensive negotiation and discussion between the member states, with heavy weight given to the view of the United States.
UK unlikely to veto appointment
It is understood that the UK is unlikely to directly veto Ms von der Leyen’s appointment if she emerged as a frontrunner because other Nato states would steer her away from the role.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has been mooted as a possible contender for the role, and is understood to be supported by Rishi Sunak.
Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian deputy prime minister, are also in the frame.
Ms Freeland is unlikely to be supported by the US, sources told this newspaper, while Mr Rutte may be too “dovish” on defence policy to please Baltic states that feel under threat from Russian aggression.
US diplomats are also thought to be unhappy about the idea of Ms von der Leyen moving from the EU to Nato, as the White House prefers the two blocs to be separate.
The Commission President previously argued that the EU should find the “political will” to form its own army from the armed forces of member states.
Her idea for a 5,000-strong “entry force” to allow the EU to act independently of Nato was backed by other EU diplomats, and a similar suggestion has previously been made by Emmanuel Macron.