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Ben Wallace, the British Defence Secretary, is the right choice to head NATO - Telegraph - 19.06.23

He has the experience to keep this vital alliance together, no matter what Emmanuel Macron thinks says General The Lord Dannatt a former Chief of the General Staff.

As ongoing events in Ukraine demonstrate, there is no more important issue affecting the security of Europe than a satisfactory outcome to that war. Peace and stability in Europe must be the ambition and the restoration of affordable standards of living the highly desirable consequence.

While the actions of individual countries to support Ukraine now and in the future will be important, the continuing ability of NATO to give a collective voice to the West will be crucial. Therefore, it follows that the selection of the next secretary general of NATO will have a major bearing on the future security of Europe. It is vital that the candidate selected has relevant experience, a proven track record and is an individual of international stature, capable of commanding respect from all member states.

The force confronting NATO – now and potentially in the future unless there is a dramatic Russian collapse in Ukraine – is and will be Vladimir Putin. This unreconstructed KGB colonel watched in horror during the late 1980s as his beloved Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact crumbled in the face of the solidarity of NATO and the West. For many years during his leadership of the Russian Federation he has worked to destroy NATO’s cohesion, challenging and testing the alliance by posing dilemmas that he hopes will bring diverse responses from member states.

He has goaded the Baltic states, begging the question: would the US really go to war with Russia over Latvia or Estonia? He seized an opportunity to expand Russian influence in Syria and the Middle East and was delighted that the West laid down red lines over the use of chemical weapons and then walked away from them. However, over Ukraine Putin has miscalculated badly and rather than divide Nato, he has been the catalyst to forge even greater cohesion within the alliance – at least for now.

It is in this wider context that the reported attempt by Emmanuel Macron to obstruct the candidacy of Ben Wallace, the British Defence Secretary, is so ridiculous. The successful candidate must be the best and most qualified person to fill the appointment, and the selection process must not become a political football.

Matters of security should be of far higher priority than a narrow or mean French desire to hurt or punish the United Kingdom over Brexit. Against all the historic antagonisms between France and Britain stands the long-term commitment of both countries one to another. Has the memory of being brothers in arms twice in the 20th century already been forgotten, a memory to be sacrificed on the altar of short-term political point scoring?

To be more specific, if the French president really believes that Mette Frederiksen would make a better NATO secretary general than Wallace, then he has not done his homework.

Yes, she is young and successful and has been prime minister of Denmark since 2019, but her background is not in defence. Her previous appointments in the Danish government were as minister of justice and minister of employment.

Of course, as prime minister she has been exposed to international affairs, but that is rather different. Wallace, on the other hand, has personal experience of military service and has been a very successful Defence Secretary since 2019. Had Macron been at the International Commemoration of D Day in Normandy on June 6 this year, he would have witnessed the very close relationship between Wallace and Sébastien Lecornu, his own armed forces minister.

Moreover, he would have heard Wallace’s moving tribute to those who fought and fell for freedom in the Normandy Campaign of 1944.

From his own experience of combat, Wallace asserted that the biggest obstacle to success in battle is combating one’s own fear – soldiers had managed to do this on D Day and are doing so now in Ukraine on a daily basis. Here is a man who has a deep understanding of what being a leader in crisis and conflict demands. On the basis of the evidence, Wallace is a far stronger candidate than Frederiksen. Narrow prejudice must not be allowed to corrupt this appointment process.

Looking ahead, the next secretary general of NATO has the immense task of leading the debate within the alliance over the future of Ukraine. Should Ukraine become a Nato member and, if so, when? How can the West establish a new relationship with Russia? Should the current counter-offensive not bring decisive results in Kyiv’s favour, how can the solidarity and cohesion of NATO be maintained if this war drags on without an end in sight?

For the sake of the security of Europe, we deserve the most competent candidate in that office, not a political pawn.

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Ben Wallace is the right choice to head NATO - by Richard Dannatt for the Telegraph - 19
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The Defence Secretary with the heads of the UK and US armed forces at Nato HQ. Credit: Corporal Tim Hammond/UK MoD Crown Copyright.

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