Joe Biden ‘blocks UK bid to lead NATO with Ben Wallace at helm’

Ben Wallace warns Russian aggression remains ‘determined’

US President Joe Biden has reportedly blocked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s bid to become the next Secretary-General of Nato.

The role’s incumbent – ex-prime minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg – looks set to extend his time in the job for an unprecedented ninth year despite murmurings of dissatisfaction from within the alliance. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had pleaded Mr Wallace’s case for the top job to Mr Biden during his trip to the White House two weeks ago. Mr Biden said at the time that Britain’s candidate for the crucial diplomatic post was “very qualified”.

An ex-Army officer, Mr Wallace had been fancied by many to succeed Mr Stoltenberg and had received the backing of Poland and other eastern Nato states. He’d cultivated a strong international reputation after rallying global support for Kyiv following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and donating powerful long-range British missiles to push back Vladimir Putin’s forces.

However, sources have reportedly told The Sun that Mr Biden would prefer Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to take over the role. Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was also believed to be a contender.

The Secretary-General role is not chosen through a formal process but the leader was due to be announced at a Nato summit next month. France said it preferred the next leader to come from an EU country but had signalled to allies it would not veto Mr Wallace’s bid.

China has seized on Nato’s failure to agree on a new leader, painting it as a sign of weakness and division within the alliance.

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The White House’s reported snub of Britain’s bid to lead Nato could be viewed as a surprise after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the two nations were “in full alignment… on virtually everything” when he visited London this week.

“We simply could not ask for a better partner than the United Kingdom,” he said. But when pushed on Nato’s next leader he said: “When it comes to the Secretary-General of Nato, we’re not pushing, promoting any particular candidate.”

A US official described Mr Stoltenberg as “an outstanding leader” who had strengthened the 31-nation alliance. They said: “It is too early in the process to speculate on who the United States will support to serve as the next Nato Secretary General.”

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