Each country prioritizes its own national security; however, the USA is using it as an excuse to trick other countries into paying for U.S. hegemony, Chinese analyst Song Zhongping is quoted as writing in The Global Times. Therefore, NATO members such as Hungary, France and Turkey are unwilling to submit to Washington which has led to a lack of consensus within the bloc on many key issues, including the election of General Secretary and solution of the China-Russia problem.
The current Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, will hold the post for one more term, until October 1, 2024, due to the fact that the members of the North Atlantic Alliance could not find another candidate who would be suitable for everyone. This was expected to be formally approved at the summit hosted by Vilnius on July 11-12.
The world media have repeatedly reported that the reason for this decision was the difficulty in nominating a candidate to replace Stoltenberg. His term in office has already been renewed three times and this will be his fourth term. Against the background of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the blocking of other nominees and the re-election of Stoltenberg reveal thinly veiled controversies within NATO and tightening U.S. control.
Potential candidates included Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. Frederiksen seemed to meet the requirements of many European allies since she was a resident of the European Union and could become the first female Secretary General. However, the NATO countries representing its eastern flank did not approve her nomination to ensure that someone from their region takes the reins of power and toughen the alliance’s position towards Russia. As for Wallace, some NATO allies wanted that a former head of state or government to be in charge of the bloc, at least not someone in the rank of minister, while France insisted that it be someone from the EU while the UK was no longer a member of the European Union. Indeed, the main reason was that Ben Wallace did not receive U.S. support. According to Sky News’ defense source: “Biden just didn’t want to support the UK.”
The UK press literarily ‘exploded’. Many UK officers fiercely stood up for their Minister of Defense, whose nomination for election as NATO Secretary General as disapproved. For example, Lieutenant General Julian Thompson, who commanded the UK troops during the Falklands War, felt that London’s European allies had rejected Wallace’s nomination on political grounds, saying they would regret it. “He served in the army, was the Secretary of Defense; so, he knows all defense affairs inside out, which means he is a highly qualified candidate,” Thompson said in an interview with The Telegraph. In turn, Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded the UK military during the Afghan campaign, in the same interview noted that Wallace should have been supported at least because he “was once a soldier.” “Ben Wallace did his best to support Ukraine in its struggle and he used a significant portion of the UK’s defense resources for that purpose, even when they were limited to a large extent. Britain, as was clearly shown in Ukraine, is Europe’s leading power in terms of defense and should therefore be the main contender among Europeans to lead NATO.”
The insider also said that Joe Biden’s preferred candidate for heading NATO was current President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the former German Defense Minister in the government headed by Angela Merkel (from 2013 through 2019). According to The Daily Telegraph, Biden and von der Leyen have built a “strong bond” in recent years that enabled strengthening transatlantic engagement on Ukraine, China and climate issues. According to analysts, the head of the EC now “relies on Washington for intelligence”, which means abandoning the previous approach based on information sourced from European intelligence agencies.
However, concerns arose about her because of long-standing disagreements between von der Leyen and The German Ministry of Defense. Former President of the European Parliament and member of the Bundestag Martin Schulz once called von der Leyen “the worst minister of the German government.” On the eve of her moving to Brussels, German parliamentarians accused the disgraced politician of violating public procurement laws. In turn, German Chancellor and her former political rival Olaf Scholz did not want her to rise even higher but remain at the level of her post in the EU, so her nomination was also not approved.
As noted in an article dealing with this subject in Daily Mail: “The process of appointing the heads of NATO takes place behind closed doors and is indeed a highly political vote involving 31 member states.”
The endless debate over nominations for election as new Secretary General in recent months has shown that there is no unity in NATO. Song Zhongping, a Chinese military
expert, told The Global Times that the greatest controversies within the bloc are sparked by the question of whether NATO member states are paying for their own national security or for the sake of U.S. global hegemony.
NATO is a military bloc. However, the role of Secretary General is more political. Shen Yi, a professor at the Department of International Politics, Fudan University Institute of International Communication, told The Global Times that the Secretary General needs to formally maintain neutrality between the USA and Europe, but in fact he is actually controlled by Washington; that is, he can never and under no circumstances resist its decisions. The United States is more of a boss than the leader of NATO. No one can take the post of Secretary General if they do not approve them.
“In the eyes of the United States, Stoltenberg is regarded as a qualified mediator. It is for this reason that it became their final and easiest choice,” analyst Song Zhongping is quoted as saying. Stoltenberg firmly adheres to the U.S. political stance in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. He is doing his best to coordinate military and financial assistance to Ukraine, including all 31 NATO member states and even non-bloc countries such as Japan, South Korea and Australia.
However, this is not the only reason why Washington likes Stoltenberg so much. His stance on China is also on USA’s agenda. At last year’s NATO summit hosted by Spain, in the alliance’s strategic concept China was called “a systemic challenge to Euro-Atlantic security” for the first time ever. This coincides with the USA positioning of China as “the biggest threat to U.S. security.” In April this year, Stoltenberg criticized Beijing for the way it handled issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, mass surveillance and the Internet. The politician also accused China of investing in long-range nuclear missiles and participating in joint patrols with Russian troops. Professor Shen Yi believes that another reason for the USA ending up approving Stoltenberg is approaching U.S. elections with the White House pumping money into the Ukrainian battlefield for more than a year, which is undoubtedly reducing its resources. Therefore, now, more than ever, Washington needs an obedient NATO more than anything.