How Klaus Iohannis became an unwanted NATO Secretary-General candidate: A solo run…

Sursa Foto: Inquam Photos/ Octav Ganea

How Klaus Iohannis became an unwanted NATO Secretary-General candidate: A solo run or misunderstood alliance? Exclusive insights from behind the scenes

Klaus Iohannis’ bid for the NATO Secretary-General position seems to have been effectively ended by the White House. President Joe Biden did not mention it, and a spokesperson stated that the U.S. supports Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

According to information gathered by G4Media over recent weeks, it appears Iohannis entered the race on his own, without the support of strategic partners, ultimately irritating everyone involved. His candidacy was intended to satisfy his vast ego as a politician of global stature. In reality, he found all doors closed to him, receiving support only from Russia-friendly leaders Viktor Orban (Hungary) and Robert Fico (Slovakia).

How did Klaus Iohannis become a candidate that no one wanted? Here are the facts.

The first hint came in July 2022, at a press conference, when he said he would seriously consider a nomination for NATO’s top position.

„If I were to receive such a proposal, I would evaluate it very seriously and make a public statement,” he responded to a journalist’s question. However, no such proposal was made. Furthermore, in the fall of 2023, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte publicly expressed his interest in the NATO Secretary-General post.

Then, on February 21, 2024, Romania officially informed its NATO allies of its nomination of President Klaus Iohannis for the role of Secretary-General, as reported by G4Media citing government sources. This announcement came as a surprise to all of Romania’s strategic partners.

President Iohannis had not consulted any ally states before submitting his candidacy. In other words, Klaus Iohannis entered the race independently, without any support from the U.S., U.K., France, or Germany, although unanimity is required to appoint a NATO Secretary-General.

The announcement from President Iohannis caused „irritation” among member states, as diplomatic sources told G4Media. This irritation was evident when, the next day, a U.S. official stated to Reuters and other Western media outlets that „President Biden strongly supports Mark Rutte’s candidacy to be the next Secretary-General of NATO.”

Following this, officials from the U.K., Germany, and France – all publicly announced their support for Mark Rutte.

Despite the formal announcements from Western countries, President Iohannis publicly affirmed his candidacy. On March 12, 2024, he announced in a press statement that he had submitted his candidacy for the role of NATO Secretary-General. „We are in a security context where I believe it is time for our country to assume greater responsibility within Euro-Atlantic leadership structures,” he stated at that time.

A week later, on April 2, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO reaffirmed U.S. support for Rutte in the race for the alliance’s leadership, while about President Iohannis, she said, „We have deep respect for our friend Iohannis. We wish him good luck.”

At that time, Rutte had the backing of 27 of the 31 NATO member countries. The only countries not supporting him were Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, and, obviously, Romania.

Then came the Erdogan moment. On April 29, the Turkish President announced his support for Mark Rutte for the NATO leadership after the Dutch Prime Minister visited Ankara at his own expense to lobby for the position. President Iohannis had also tried to lobby Erdogan a week earlier, but not with a visit, rather through a phone call to the Turkish president.

The final blow to Klaus Iohannis’ candidacy was a visit to the White House, according to G4Media information. President Joe Biden was extremely polite in front of the press, but he did not mention the candidacy.

Nor did the official White House statement mention Mr. Iohannis’ NATO bid, although it was equally laudatory. „Praise is normal, the president represents the Romanian people, it’s natural to appreciate his efforts,” a diplomatic source stated.

However, John Kirby, the National Security spokesperson at the White House, conveyed that „nothing has changed regarding our support for Mr. (Mark) Rutte to be the next Secretary-General.”

What then was the purpose of the White House invitation? President Iohannis personally received information that the U.S. supports Mark Rutte for NATO leadership, according to diplomatic sources consulted by G4Media.

This is why the visit appeared at the last minute on his travel agenda to the U.S., where he received an award from the think-tank Atlantic Council.

At the end of the discussion with Biden, Iohannis announced that „together we have decided to continue the dialogue” about the NATO leadership candidacy. Moreover, the president stated, „It is good to have two candidates, because then there is the opportunity to open new topics for debate and obviously, the chance to make things work better.”

Notably, Iohannis did not announce his intention to withdraw from the race despite all the signals received. It is unclear if mentioning his candidacy means he is negotiating for another significant international role.

There were voices that interpreted President Iohannis’ statements as implying tacit U.S. support for his candidacy as a backup in case Mark Rutte does not achieve unanimous support from member states.

However, G4Media information at this time shows that the head of state does not have this support for the role of „backup candidate.” On the contrary. The support from the U.S. and other allied states is firm for Mark Rutte, and the entry of Klaus Iohannis into the race only complicates and delays a result that the U.S. had desired since April, as publicly stated by Ambassador Julianne Smith.

And so, what is the purpose of this candidacy? Why did President Iohannis risk putting himself in the politically ungrateful situation of losing a competition?

One explanation, favored by representatives of the Romanian state, is that his candidacy was meant to raise Romania’s interests and concerns on NATO’s agenda. This includes a stronger NATO presence in the Black Sea and Romania and a firmer stance of deterrence against Russia.

„It is a legitimate objective, do not forget that Western officials have announced that Russia could attack a NATO member state in 5-8 years,” a Romanian official told G4Media. President Iohannis publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with NATO’s efforts in a statement in Washington, saying, „It is not enough. We need a much firmer commitment to the Eastern Flank, both for Defense and for deterrence.”

The president’s inflated ego

But how did Klaus Iohannis, a president otherwise attentive to details and who carefully calculates „step by step,” make such an important decision without consulting, according to G4Media.ro, with American partners?

One explanation offered is because of his „supersized ego.” In other words, the president believes he is too important a political figure in Europe to end his ten-year term at Cotroceni without a major leap in his career to a significant international role.

But how did Klaus Iohannis come to have such a supersized ego? Who made him have such a high opinion of himself as a political figure to believe he could be useful, if not indispensable, on the global stage, not just in Romania?

It all started in Sibiu, where Klaus Iohannis began his political career 24 years ago. Starting in 2000, he won four mayoral terms with staggering scores, practically without opposition. He led Sibiu without real opposition, without hostile press, in a perfectly controlled environment, accustomed to having his qualities as mayor exalted after he genuinely transformed the small medieval borough from its foundations.

In 2009, he was proposed by the USL as the solution for the prime minister’s office, thanks to his results in local administration. A few years later, in 2014, he was pulled out of the hat again as a saving solution for the presidency, which he also won against Victor Ponta (PSD).

A brief recap: four mayoral terms won easily, a prime minister proposal, two presidential terms – here are just as many explanations for Klaus Iohannis’ enlarged ego. Continuous success has fueled his messianic side.

A constant in his political career has been his imperial behavior: from apparently insignificant gestures (coat thrown on the car hood), to a penchant for luxury (private jet, golf, long vacations, even longer absences from the public space, renovations of 9 million euros for the villa on Aviatorilor 86).

This type of behavior describes more of a monarch, not a head of state in a republic. Klaus Iohannis has not seen himself for a second as a humble servant of his citizens, but rather everyone else around him as his servants.

He has given only one interview in the ten years spent at Cotroceni, i.e., he has not felt the need to explain his actions, nor to justify them. He has behaved the same with the party and with close collaborators, who have never known what he thinks and what he really wants. Another sign of a supersized ego, a character who has such a good opinion of himself that he cannot stand being contradicted.

For this reason, he has surrounded himself as much as possible with mediocre or very weak politicians, who have amply fed his ego and encouraged his plans for advancement to important positions abroad. No one dared to tell him to his face that he does not have the stature for NATO, the EU, or even as a European commissioner, and that his maximum competence was displayed in the small city in Transylvania. As president, his results do not recommend him for almost any role outside the country.

But there was no one to put this mirror in front of him, so President Klaus Iohannis began to believe he was more important than he is. Nothing prevented his ego from expanding from Sibiu to Bucharest and from Romania to the global level.

„Klaus Iohannis aims for the stars to at least reach the Moon,” a diplomatic source succinctly summarized the president’s ambitions. We will see if he even gets there, if not return after ten years at Cotroceni, feet on the ground, to Sibiu. Or to the luxury villa on Aviatorilor 86.

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