Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is most likely to replace Jens Stoltenberg as the NATO secretary general, since the alliance is looking for a former high-ranking official with deep understanding of the European security architecture amid the Ukraine crisis, a NATO source told Sputnik.
“Mario Draghi, I think, has the most possibilities to get the position now, since the French, Italian, German sides agree and the Americans seem not to object,” the source said.
European members of NATO, mostly France, Italy and Germany, insist that the post of the alliance’s secretary general must be held by someone with thorough understanding of Europe’s security architecture, given that major challenges for the alliance are now concentrated on the European continent, according to the source.
Under this approach, former European high-ranking officials with the relevant extensive experience are believed to be the best suited for the position, with two of them — Draghi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis — not objected to by the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, even though the latter countries advocate for someone with “a more dynamic posture” than the outgoing Italian prime minister.
"They consider Draghi a bit moderate, and they argue that the alliance will need stronger and more determined leadership, especially now, as the alliance is facing new challenges, especially when it comes to Europe and its security," the source added.
Moreover, Ottawa calls for special attention to be paid to the Arctic, which, it believes, will become a key challenge for the alliance soon. In this regard, Canada wants to see a secretary general with deep knowledge of the security architecture not only of Europe but also of the Arctic, according to the source.
“Any one of the candidates can get the position at this stage, I think we will have a clear picture and probably the name of the next secretary general either in Christmas or a bit after it,” the source concluded.
Stoltenberg’s term as secretary general was due to expire this fall, but in view of the Ukraine crisis, his tenure was extended for another year, until September 30, 2023.
Rumors of Stoltenberg’s possible replacement have been circulating for several years. In 2021, the Politico newspaper reported, citing its sources, that three former female presidents of Eastern European NATO countries were among possible candidates, namely Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia, Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania and Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia. In September 2022, media also speculated that Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was one of the potential candidates to succeed Stoltenberg.