Joe Biden reportedly appreciates that Ursula von der Leyen trusts US intelligence over west European agencies
US President Joe Biden’s preferred choice for the next secretary general of NATO is European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to The Telegraph newspaper.
Biden and von der Leyen have built “a strong bond” in the past few years over issues such as China, Ukraine and climate change, the British outlet reported on Tuesday, citing NATO officials.
According to one of the paper’s sources, the White House appreciated that the European Commission president recently preferred to “rely on Washington for intelligence” instead of trusting European agencies, which had failed to properly evaluate Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
The report also suggested that von der Leyen would likely be able to get the backing of France’s Emmanuel Macron, another key player in NATO, due to her fluency in the French language.
On Tuesday, NATO’s incumbent Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that his tenure, which was due to finish in late September, had been prolonged for another year. The Norwegian has headed the US-led military bloc since 2014, with his term having been extended four times.
The announcement came after NATO members again failed to agree on a replacement for Stoltenberg. According to media reports, the candidacy of British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace was blocked last month by the US and France, who reportedly want an official from the EU to get the job.
The Daily Mail reported earlier this week that Biden was opposed to Wallace, likely because he served as a British soldier in Northern Ireland during the period of sectarian violence known as ‘The Troubles’. The US leader “wears his southern Irish roots on his sleeve” and “he’s hardly particularly pro-British either,” sources told the paper.
Von der Leyen had previously said that, despite being honored to find herself among the possible candidates, she wasn’t particularly interested in the NATO role. However, according to The Telegraph, the US doubts that she would be able to continue leading the European Commission after next year’s European Parliament elections.
“It brings the NATO job into the discussions over Europe’s other top jobs,” one of the sources said.
The Telegraph pointed out that one of the hurdles for von der Leyen becoming secretary general of the military bloc could be her “poor handling” of the German Defense Ministry, which she headed between 2013 and 2019. The paper recalled a report from 2015, which claimed that German soldiers had had to replace heavy machine guns with broomsticks during NATO drills in order to hide their lack of equipment.