NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R), and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) attend the press meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — When the international community gathers in Washington next month for the NATO summit, the alliance’s next leader will likely remain mostly in the background as outgoing Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg caps off his decade-long tenure, according to analysts.

“I don’t expect him, [Mark] Rutte, to make a big speech about his vision, in part because the secretary general’s job is — I wouldn’t say visionless, but it’s more about getting members aligned,” Max Bergmann, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told reporters today. “And I think he won’t want to steal the limelight from what is Stoltenberg’s sort of swan song and final summit.”

Rutte, the outgoing Dutch prime minister, has been viewed as a near certainty to follow Stoltenberg as NATO’s next leader for months now after receiving key endorsements from allies, such as the White House, as well as his stiffest competitors, namely the Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who withdrew their bids for the job. But just today, NATO allies gave their formal approval, cementing the months-long speculation.

Formalities aside, Rutte won’t take up the post until Oct. 1 and, Bergmann and other CSIS analysts noted, he will likely remain relatively quiet at the upcoming summit as he contemplates the work ahead for his transition later this year.

“I don’t see Rutte playing a big role in the summit,” said Kathleen McInnis, also a fellow at CSIS. “His tenure doesn’t start until October 1, so this is the moment in which you get handed the baton and starting to get up to speed, starting to do the transition, so that when he assumes the role on October 1, he’s ready to go.”

The secretary general’s term is intended to last four years, at which point it can be extended, as has happened three times to Stoltenberg who began the job in 2014. In his home country, the Netherlands, Rutte is viewed as a skilled diplomat with an immaculate record free of political scandal.

“He is seen as an exceptionally talented and likable politician, one that gets along pretty much with everybody, which is I think probably one of the most crucial factors — crucial assets in this job, because the secretary general is in some ways a job about herding cats and getting 32 members to be on the same page,” said Bergmann.