(Ottawa) Rumor refuses to die: Chrystia Freeland, future NATO Secretary General? Former Foreign and Finance Minister John Manley, who was in the race in 2003, believes the Canadian’s chances are slim, but he considers it “unfair” that it is invariably a European who inherits the job.
The name of the Deputy Prime Minister has been mentioned in articles in the New York Timesof Politico Europe and, more recently, the magazine Foreign Policy. We see in this polyglot ex-journalist, who enjoys a good reputation on the international scene, a potential successor to Jens Stoltenberg.
The main interested party pleads each time she is questioned on this subject that she already has a lot on her plate, and that she likes what she does. His office did not want to go further last week or say whether his candidacy is actually favored by Washington.
The United States Embassy in Canada is careful not to open the game for Americans. “We are unable to comment on the deliberations surrounding the selection of the next Secretary General,” a spokeswoman said.
Until the United States is prepared to push very hard for it, it’s not going to happen. And here, I am talking about non-passive support: the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State who call their colleagues and tell them: “We want it to be her.”
John Manley, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance
There is a catch.
Canada does not devote 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to the National Defense budget.
“To convince Americans to put their weight behind Mme Freeland, we have to make a clear commitment on the minimum target of 2%”, believes the former minister to whom Jean Chrétien, although “not a big fan of NATO”, had given his blessing at the time.
“It’s not the rule”
The French ambassador to Canada, Michel Miraillet, raises the same issue.
“To be Secretary General of NATO and to intervene within an organization which puts pressure to ask countries for at least 2% of the GDP in terms of defence, it is a bit complicated. You find yourself a bit between two chairs, ”he explains.
But beyond the question of money, there is that of nationality, insists the diplomat, who himself worked for a few years as a representative of the Élysée in the political-military alliance.
“It’s not the rule,” he decided during an interview.
“The problem is that in NATO there are a number of rules, including that the secretary general is not a North American. So. We can regret it, but it’s a bit like that, ”continues the French diplomat.
His German counterpart, Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser, is cautious when asked if Berlin would be willing to set its sights on a non-European to lead the bloc of 30 countries, only two of which are in North America.
“I didn’t think about it, honestly. I’m a little agnostic on this! I can’t comment beyond that,” she said in an interview.
Sabine Sparwasser indicates, however, that Chrystia Freeland “enjoys great admiration in Europe, and in particular in Germany”, among other things because “it was she who convinced the Social Democrats not to vote against the free agreement -exchange between Canada and the European Union”.
“Unfair”, according to John Manley
Never has a woman been at the helm of NATO since its creation in 1949 – in addition to the name of the Canadian Deputy Prime Minister, that of the Estonian Kaja Kallas, who has just been re-elected Prime Minister of this Baltic State, is also circulating in the media.
The organization established in Brussels has never been led by a Canadian either.
According to John Manley, Canadian citizenship should not be an automatic criterion for disqualification.
“I think it’s unfair. You know, the Netherlands is an exceptional country, we have a lot of common interests with them… but it’s a very small country! Why have there been so many Dutch leaders, and not one or two, but zero Canadians? “, he launches.
NATO can “accuse us of not spending as much as others on defence”, but “we played a key role during the Second World War, and we are a founding member”, insists the former politician.
Pieces to place
The selection of the NATO Secretary General is made by consensus.
The United States, France and Germany are widely considered to be the nations with the most weight in the balance.
Before the official end of Jens Stoltenberg’s term, NATO Heads of State and Government will meet in Vilnius, Lithuania next July. The question of leadership will undoubtedly be on everyone’s lips.
And if there is a Canadian campaign in favor of Chrystia Freeland, we will have to be ready to compromise, notes Louise Blais, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations.
“These campaigns have a political cost, and exchanges must be made. That’s why we have to have an overview, do the math, and talk to our allies about it,” she notes.
A more international than national profile
There remains the missing, and essential, piece of the puzzle: is the fiercely pro-Ukraine and anti-Putin MP from Toronto, who was an important player in the government’s response to the invasion, is she tempted by the adventure?
Behind the scenes, Liberals see her running more to international events than bingo halls in the hope of being elected leader of the Liberal Party, where some have seen her since Justin Trudeau recruited her in 2013.
“I don’t see her as the leader of my party at all,” said a high-ranking liberal source who asked not to be named in order to express his opinion as freely as possible.
Her penchant for world affairs was communicated by Minister Freeland in a speech last October on her vision for a new international order at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.
“It was not at all related to his portfolio as Deputy Prime Minister. It is certain that we, here, we watched it wondering what was going on, ”expresses another liberal source not being authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
In the minister’s office, which is currently working on its third budget, spokesperson Adrienne Vaupshas said: “Mme Freeland already has an important job and is focused on serving Canada and Canadians. »
- Canada devotes this percentage of its GDP to defense spending, still far from the 2% target reached by 8 of the 30 NATO member countries.
Source: NATO Secretary General’s Annual Report, 2021
- This is the share of NATO defense spending that comes from the United States.
Source: NATO Secretary General’s Annual Report, 2021