Ben Wallace admits defeat on becoming next Nato head

Current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg due to step down in September

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the Nato headquarters in Brussels on June 15. AFP
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British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said he does not expect to be appointed as Nato’s next secretary general.

The current leader of the military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, is due to step down in September after nine years in the role.

Nato has struggled to decide on a replacement ahead of its summit in Lithuania next month.

Last week sources said he was expected to be asked to stay on for another year.

Mr Wallace told The Economist: "It's not going to happen". He added that there are "a lot of unresolved issues in Nato".

The US wants Mr Stoltenberg to stay in the role, Mr Wallace said.

"Maybe they want a Prime Minister," he added. Mr Stoltenberg twice served as Norway's Prime Minister before his appointment as leader of Nato.

Earlier in the month, US President Joe Biden said he would support a Nato leader from the UK when he met Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the White House.

Mr Biden indicated that Mr Wallace was a "very qualified individual" but it "remains to be seen" who will get the job.

Before his trip to the White House, Mr Sunak said Mr Wallace is widely respected across the world.

"Ben does a fantastic job. He is a great Defence Secretary," Mr Sunak said at the start of June.

"Ben is widely respected among his colleagues around the world.

"We're one of the only countries that participates in every single Nato operation. We are widely perceived as a thought leader in Nato."

The article also cited sources close to Wallace as saying the process remains open. A spokesperson for Wallace declined to comment.

Throwing his hat into the ring for the role in May, Mr Wallace said the position is “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.

However, he added, "I’m also loving the job I do now".

Updated: June 22, 2023, 8:58 AM