Biden says it could be time for British NATO boss – as Wallace rumoured for top job

It could be time for a British NATO Secretary General, according to US President Joe Biden.

Amid growing speculation that UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace wants to take over the top role when Jens Stoltenberg stands down later this year, Mr Biden was asked if he would support a Briton taking the top job during a press conference with Rishi Sunak at the White House.

Mr Biden was asked: “In light of the warm words right now about UK/US defence collaboration, particularly in Ukraine, do you think it is time for the first UK Nato Secretary General in two decades?”

The president replied: “Maybe, that remains to be seen.”

Mr Biden added: “We’re going to have to get a consensus within NATO to see that happen.

“They have a candidate who’s a very qualified individual… we have a lot of discussion between us in NATO, to determine what the outcome of that will be.”

It was not completely clear if he meant Mr Wallace was the “very qualified individual”.

If Mr Wallace is successful, he would be the first British person to hold the post since Baron George Robertson vacated it in 2003.

It was expected that Rishi Sunak would make Mr Wallace’s case for the job to Mr Biden.

He was visiting the president in Washington DC, where the pair revealed an “Atlantic Declaration” to boost economic security.

In his statement to the press from the White House, Mr Sunak highlighted the UK has consistently spent more than the NATO target for member states to spend 2% of GDP on defence.

This could be seen as a slight aimed at the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, who is also said to be in the running for the top role within the alliance.

Denmark did not meet the target of spending 2% of its economic output on defence last year.

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Sunak warns alliance will not give up on Ukraine

Ms Frederiksen also visited the United States and Mr Biden earlier this week.

Some within the alliance are pushing for a woman or someone from Eastern Europe to take over given the context of the war in Ukraine. Many of the alliance’s previous leaders have been Northern European men.

France reportedly wants an EU candidate to take over.

The selection of the new secretary general usually takes place behind the scenes.

Mr Sunak also made the case for Mr Wallace to take on the role while at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last month.

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However, it has not been an overly explicit campaign.

The prime minister told ITV at the time: “I know he’s widely respected by his peers for the role that he has played.

“He’s focused right now on supporting Ukraine. He’s doing a great job of that.”

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace said: “I’ve always said it would be a good job. That’s a job I’d like.

“But I’m also loving the job I do now.”

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The secretary general role “is a fantastic job and NATO is an incredibly important part of all our securities,” he added.

“But it’s not for me to decide. It’s for all the other allies,” Mr Wallace said.