Boris Johnson, who soon leaves his position as Prime Minister of the U.K., can become Secretary General of NATO after Jens Stoltenberg’s term ends in September, British media report. Are his chances real?
Who supports Johnson as NATO Secretary General?
The politician who’s been an ardent supporter of Ukraine in the last five months has long been touted as a candidate for the next Secretary General of NATO, The Telegraph wrote.
Other possible British candidates for this role besides Johnson are Ben Wallace, the Defense Secretary, and former Prime Ministers Theresa May and David Cameron.
The last time a Brit headed NATO was in 1999, when it was George Robertson of Port Ellen, the former Defense Secretary.
The Telegraph explains the possible support for a candidate from London to be caused by U.S. distrust around any European Union figures who could take the job. The newspaper also mentions senior Tories backing Johnson in these aspirations.
In particular, Mark Francois, MP, recognized that Boris Johnson’s legacy is disputable, but his absolutely staunch support for Ukraine is clearly inarguable.
"If he were to apply to become the Secretary General of NATO, I suspect he could rely on President Zelensky for a reference," the conservative says.
Richard Drax, a senior member of the defense select committee, is also willing to support the Prime Minister:
"Any distinguished Brit would be a great choice. If indeed that is what Boris Johnson wants to go and do, of course I would support that."
Macron can veto Johnson
Lord Richard Dannatt, former head of the British Army, for his part, said he wouldn’t support Johnson, citing the Prime Minister’s character.
Lord Dannatt argues that Johnson, undoubtedly, has done a lot of good things, including his fantastic full-square support for Ukraine, but what fails him are his lack of integrity and lack of trust.
"Frankly, we don't want to expose Boris Johnson on the international stage for more ridicule. He is a national embarrassment," Dannatt explained.
The Telegraph also cites a source in the U.K. Ministry of Defense to say that not all EU countries approve Johnson’s candidacy: there is a likelihood that Emmanuel Macron, the French President, would veto him, since the NATO Secretary General is appointed by unanimous decision.
"Do you think President Macron would nominate Boris Johnson to be the Secretary General of NATO? It is a challenge for a Brit full stop. You need the United States to support you and the French to say ‘yes’," the source explained.
The newspaper points out that Johnson is backed by the defense select committee of the U.K., which praises him for his unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.
The Scottish and Labor are against it
Meanwhile, The National, a Scottish newspaper, published an article doubting Johnson’s fitness to aspire for the position of Secretary General.
"Rumors that Boris Johnson is being touted as a potential Secretary General of NATO have been dismissed and derided by senior members of the SNP (Scottish National Party) and Labor," the newspaper writes.
In particular, the journalists cited SNP’s spokesperson Stewart McDonald, who concisely commented on the article from The Telegraph on Twitter: "Won’t happen."
Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner also mocked the idea.
She argues that Johnson’s candidacy is impossible because of his controversial 2018 meeting with Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent.
"The man who secretly met a former KGB agent after a crucial NATO summit and can’t remember what he discussed or who he was with? I think it’s a ‘no’," she tweeted.
The Scottish lawyer and human rights advocate Aamer Anwar responded to the rumors about Johnson being the next NATO Secretary General by tweeting: "The End of the World is Nigh."
So it’s unclear whether Johnson’s prospective candidacy for NATO Secretary General would sustain a barrage of criticism from the adversaries of the Prime Minister, who steps down on September 6, considering that he’s not short of opponents even in his own party.