Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday September 10, 2022
Chrystia Freeland has a ‘legitimate shot’ at top NATO job, expert says
It’s the favourite parlour game of the parliamentary precinct — predicting which powerful figure is going where and why. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland finds herself at the centre of speculation now, as talk about her possible appointment to NATO’s top job ramps up.
The buzz was loud enough for a journalist to ask Freeland about it directly on Wednesday, as Liberal cabinet ministers gathered on the West Coast to plot strategy for the fall session of Parliament.
Predictably, the deputy prime minister didn’t bite and spoke about how she already has “two busy jobs” — a reference to her principal portfolio as finance minister.
At least four different sources — in Ottawa, Washington and Brussels, where NATO is headquartered — say Freeland’s name has been tossed around for several months in international defence and security circles as a potential successor to the current secretary general, former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, who has been in the job since 2014.
The parlour game gets played in other capitals, too.
And while most of the speculation — first reported publicly by journalist Paul Wells in his online column — revolves around the domestic political effects of a possible Freeland candidacy, the chatter in international circles spins on a different axis.
“There are several very qualified women out there who would be very good candidates,” said a top NATO official who spoke to CBC News last month. (The source spoke to CBC News confidentially because they are not authorized to speak on the matter publicly.)
“It seems there is some momentum for a woman to be the next [secretary general].”
Stoltenberg’s term was supposed to end this month but NATO leaders — reeling in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine — extended that term to 2023.
Sources in Brussels said Freeland’s name surfaced last fall.
The question that didn’t quite get answered on Wednesday was whether Freeland might be interested in the job.
As someone steeped in Eastern European politics and history, someone who can speak English, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, French, Spanish and Italian, Freeland likely would be considered a major asset at a time when the alliance is trying to hold itself together in the face of a major regional war. Her knowledge of Russia and the inner workings of the Kremlin would be another major plus.
But in order to secure her candidacy, both her and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would have to work the international diplomatic circuit — likely behind the scenes — and expend political capital. (CBC)