UK's Ben Wallace throws hat in ring to lead Nato

Jens Stoltenberg expected to step down as secretary general in September

Ben Wallace has overseen Britain's armed forces since 2019. PA
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Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has revealed he would like to be Nato's next secretary general.

The alliance's top job will be up for grabs when Jens Stoltenberg's term expires in September.

Mr Wallace, who has long been tipped for the role, said during a visit to Berlin that it was "a fantastic job".

"I’ve always said it would be a good job. That’s a job I’d like," he told German news agency dpa.

"But I’m also loving the job I do now ... to be defence secretary of the British government at a time of reform and investment."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Mr Wallace was "widely respected by his peers" while stopping short of explicitly backing him for the role.

"He’s focused right now on supporting Ukraine. He’s doing a great job of that," said Mr Sunak, who is in Japan for the G7 summit.

Mr Wallace has overseen Britain's armed forces under three different prime ministers since 2019.

But polls suggest the Conservative Party is on course to lose power at a UK general election next year.

To make the switch to Nato, Mr Wallace would have to win the backing of all 31 allies, whose leaders will meet for a summit in July.

Jens Stoltenberg, right, has led Nato since 2014. Getty

Nato has no formal voting process and candidates typically emerge from behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Britain's last Nato chief was George Robertson, who led the alliance between 1999 and 2003 - a period during which its Article V mutual defence clause was invoked for the first time after the 9/11 attacks.

A bid by Mr Wallace could face opposition from those who have called for a first female or Eastern European alliance chief.

There had also been suggestions that France would be reluctant to back a candidate from post-Brexit Britain.

However, an improvement in cross-Channel relations under Mr Sunak could help shift that obstacle.

The UK has been praised by allies as a leading military donor to wartime Ukraine.

The secretary general is Nato's most visible spokesman and brokers agreements between allies.

During the past year, Mr Stoltenberg has had intensive talks with Turkey over Finland and Sweden's bids to join the alliance.

His successor will also have to handle Ukraine's aspirations to join Nato, which previously stalled because of European fears of provoking Moscow.

Mr Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, has had his term extended three times since taking office in 2014.

He abandoned plans to move to Norway's central bank after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

But his spokeswoman said in February that he did not plan to seek a fourth extension.

Updated: May 19, 2023, 8:14 AM