The Nato flag flying behind a soldier with the Polish Army during a NATO military exercise in Zagan, Poland. Troops from Germany, Norway, Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Belgium were among those taking part. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


Von der Leyen ‘could be next Nato chief if Biden gets his way’


US President Joe Biden reportedly wants Ursula von der Leyen to take over Nato’s top job next year. Current Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg recently had his tenure extended after a suitable replacement could not be found.

The European Commission President could therefore, if the report in the UK’s Daily Telegraph is true, have a choice in 2024 between two of the most important jobs in international politics.

Von der Leyen has the backing of various EU leaders to retain her role as the bloc’s top official after European elections next June, though she has yet to confirm whether she will run for the position.

“It brings the Nato job into the discussions over Europe’s other top jobs,” a source told the newspaper.

Biden and Von der Leyen have built “a strong bond” in recent years, according to another source, forging closer transatlantic ties over issues such as China, Ukraine and the climate.

Despite having the backing of such a key figure—Washington in effect leads the Nato alliance—Von der Leyen faces opposition.

She was criticised for her role as Germany’s Defence Minister from 2013 – 2019 and blamed for leaving the country’s defence forces in a poor state.

“During her time as German Defence Minister, Von der Leyen was already providing ample proof of her unsuitability for higher office due to scandals involving advisers and the destruction of evidence of wrongdoings during her tenure,” Bernhard Zimniok, a member of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and ID group, told the Brussels Signal.

“The German Bundeswehr is also in a disastrous state as a result of her time in office,” the retired Bundeswehr Lieutenant Colonel added.

Zimniok also highlighted ongoing controversy regarding Von der Leyen’s inability to find text messages relating to the Covid-19 vaccine procurement process.

“All of this combined should further strengthen the already existing doubts about her suitability for the post as the president of the European Commission and certainly as the new Nato Secretary General,” he said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who recently took up the presidency of the Council of the European Union, on the other hand expressed strong support. He said she has been “outstanding” in her current job and expressed admiration for both her style of politics and track record of making things happen, reports Politico.

Jens Stoltenberg has served as Nato’s secretary-general since 2014, after extending his three-year term twice. At the end of June he further delayed his departure until October 2024, reportedly following a request from Biden to provide stability during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Von der Leyen’s spokesperson has said she was “not available” for the Nato job. But during private talks with Biden, she reportedly didn’t rule it out.

A spokesperson for Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People’s Party group to which Von der Leyen belongs, told the Brussels Signal that they did not want to speculate on the issue.

The UK’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, was seen as a favourite among a number of Nato member states to take the job until both Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed doubts.

In Washington tensions have emerged over Wallace’s more bullish support for Ukraine. Macron argued the new Nato chief should come from an EU member state.

Danish Prime Minister Metter Frederiksen became a potential frontrunner to head Nato following a June visit to the White House and meeting with Biden. But she ruled herself out of contention following concerns raised by Member States about a third consecutive Scandinavian leader in the top spot.

Iain Duncan Smith, a British politician and former Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, told the Brussels Signal that Biden’s “visceral anti-British attitude” may have been a factor in blocking Wallace’s candidacy. He notes that Norwegian Stoltenberg “is not from an EU country yet Biden wants to extend him”.