Romanian President Says He Will Run For NATO’s Top Job


(RFE/RL) — Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said he will run for NATO’s top job as the influence of the alliance’s Eastern European member states grows stronger.

Iohannis, a former physics teacher who has been serving as the president of Romania since 2014, announced his candidacy on March 12, saying the alliance needs change and an Eastern European perspective.

“NATO needs a renewal, with a strong, influential representation from this region, which meets the needs of the member states,” he said.

If elected, Iohannis would be the first Eastern European to head NATO. Eastern European countries began joining the alliance exactly 25 years ago following the collapse of communism and the Warsaw Pact in the late 1980s.

In a political article published the same day outlining his vision for the alliance, Iohannis said European members must boost defense spending to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and rebuild the military-industrial complex on the continent in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“While we have been lagging on defense financing, benefiting from what we thought to be an everlasting peace dividend for many years, this is no longer possible,” Iohannis said, referring to the war in Ukraine.

Europe has struggled to supply Ukraine with ammunition and heavy equipment following decades of underinvestment in arms production.

Iohannis said NATO must help Ukraine in its existential struggle with Russia “for as long as it takes.” A Russian victory in Ukraine would greatly increase security risks for Romania, which borders Ukraine along the Black Sea.

Iohannis said the alliance has “a moral, political, and strategic obligation” to make sure Ukraine makes progress on its path toward NATO membership and EU accession.

The alliance, which will mark its founding 75 years ago this June, quickly came together to support Ukraine in the first year of the war. However, support has weakened in some member states in recent months, most notably the United States, which has been unable to agree on a new Ukraine aid package since October.

Furthermore, there is a growing isolationist voice within the U.S. Republican Party. Some experts fear that should Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency in November, he might try to withdraw the United States from NATO.

Trump has repeatedly complained about the failure of some European member states to reach the minimum defense spending level of 2 percent of GDP.
Iohannis’s call for European countries to boost spending could potentially assuage Trump’s concerns.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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