Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has expressed interest in becoming the next NATO Secretary General, the Associated Press reported on November 15. Current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, whose mandate was extended following Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, has already confirmed he will step down in October 2024. Other leading candidates for the NATO post include outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Kallas, a supporter of Ukraine joining NATO "when conditions permit," is likely to run for the top post in the Western military alliance when the position becomes vacant next year. She has said she wants to be among the contenders to succeed Stoltenberg, answering an unhesitatingly affirmative question to reporters at the Politico Defense Summit in Washington.
Kallas, a 46-year-old lawyer, was re-elected prime minister earlier this March after her Reform Party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in which Ukraine emerged as a major issue.
Kallas' bid for the post of NATO secretary-general has not yet been commented on by the party she leads, but a spokesman said she would run for a new term as chair of the centre-right political party at its congress in the capital Tallinn on Saturday.
Kallas' popularity peaked in the spring after the March election. The topic of Ukraine was one of the main ones in the election campaign. The small Baltic nation of just 1.3 million people has so far provided the third largest bilateral aid to Ukraine as a share of its GDP, contributing 1.2% to support Ukraine.
However, Kallas' popularity plummeted in August after Estonian media revealed that her husband remained a key shareholder in a transport company that continued to operate in Russia after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Previously, Kallas had repeatedly called on Estonian companies to stop their activities in Russia.
She denied knowing details of her husband's business activities and refused to resign despite being urged to do so by President Alar Karis and the vast majority of Estonians, recent opinion polls showed.
Jens Stoltenberg is the 13th Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in April 1949. The Secretary-General of NATO is the main civil servant of the organization, who is responsible for coordinating the work of the alliance and its spokesman, leads the international staff, chairs the meetings of The North Atlantic Council and most of the alliance's main committees, with the exception of the NATO Military Committee.
Along with the Chairman of NATO's Military Committee and the Supreme Allied Commander, the incumbent Secretary General is one of the organization's most empowered officials. If she takes on the role, Kallas will be the first woman to hold the post, having already made history as Estonia's first female prime minister.
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