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Rutte offered Orban opt-out of Ukraine support to secure top NATO job, FT reports, citing sources

by Martin Fornusek June 18, 2024 1:15 PM 2 min read
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte attends a Special European Council Summit on April 17, 2024, in Brussels, Belgium. (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte promised Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban the possibility to opt out of NATO activities in support of Ukraine if made secretary-general, the Financial Times reported on June 18, citing its undisclosed sources.

The pledge was aimed at lifting Budapest's opposition to Rutte's candidacy, the FT wrote. Twenty-nine NATO members have backed Rutte as Jens Stoltenberg's successor, while Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania have long been the remaining holdouts.

Hungary has also consistently obstructed military assistance to Kyiv and sanctions against Russia, earning itself the label of the most pro-Kremlin country within NATO.

Rutte and Orban reportedly met on the sidelines of an EU leaders' dinner in Brussels on June 17. The Dutch prime minister pledged to his Hungarian counterpart that Budapest would not have to participate in NATO activities in support of Ukraine or those that take place outside of the alliance's territory, the FT wrote.

A day later, Slovak President Peter Pellegrini publicly backed Rutte's candidacy, and the Dutch media reported that Hungary ended its opposition as well.

Slovakia said it seeks the Netherlands' support in securing its air space, while the motivations behind Hungary's decision remain unclear.

Stoltenberg visited Hungary last week for talks with Orban as many NATO members fear the Central European country could derail future plans of support for Kyiv.

The Hungarian prime minister told Stoltenberg that Budapest will not take part in any of these initiatives but will not block them either, the secretary-general said.

Orban said in an interview in late May that Budapest is looking for ways to opt out of any actions outside of the alliance's territory, allegedly fearing an escalation with Russia.

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