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ICDS director doubts Kaja Kallas' chances of becoming NATO secretary general

Kaja Kallas and Mark Rutte.
Kaja Kallas and Mark Rutte. Source: SCANPIX / AFP

Indrek Kannik, director of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) in Estonia, said that he does not believe Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is in with a chance at becoming the next NATO sec-gen. Kannik believes an agreement to elect outgoing Dutch PM Mark Rutte is already in place.

"I dare not make the claim in so many words, while, looking at developments, it seems to me that the big NATO members – USA, U.K., France and Germany – have pretty much agreed on Rutte's candidacy between themselves," Indrek Kannik said on ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" webcast Wednesday.

What's left is to see whether the other members will back that bid, Kannik said, adding that he has heard rumors Hungary plans to block Rutte's nomination.

"From what I gather, the Estonian government has not decided to veto Rutte's bid. It seems he is in with the best chance," the ICDS director remarked.

Kannik said that he does not believe Kallas' so-called eastern transports scandal is the decisive factor at play. "It doesn't help, I'm sure, while my guess is it won't be decisive."

The security expert believes that the real considerations go beyond.

"I don't think the aforementioned big NATO members are willing to entertain a NATO secretary general from the Baltics at this time. Such a move would be considered too problematic, too risky in terms of Russia relations," he went on to say. "Looking at how cautious the U.S. is being about any kind of escalation, I believe Kaja Kallas was never going to be elected NATO chief, irrespective of her eastern transports issue."

Kannik suggested during the webcast that USA dares not give Ukraine too much support in fear of escalation and Russia's reaction. He also harked back to the time of the Baltic countries regaining their independence at the turn of the 1980s and 90s during which the U.S. administration also remained highly cautious.

In terms of why member states might oppose Kallas, the ICDS head suggested it is feared she will pursue her home country's agenda. "That she will not move close enough to the NATO average – I believe that might be the cast of mind in Washington, Berlin and Paris."

"Rutte would not make a bad secretary general. Secondly, we must keep in mind that NATO policy is not shaped by its secretary general. Their role is to find consensus between members. That is the office's main purpose. NATO policy is shaped by its members, and if a NATO member refuses to do something, there is no way around that for the secretary general," Kannik said.

Other topics covered included the latest developments from the Ukraine war, the situation in Gaza, Russia's migration operation in Finland and Estonia being blocked from holding the OSCE chairmanship.

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Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski

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