The New York Times has reported that the US wants Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian-Ukrainian deputy prime minister and finance minister of Canada, as the next NATO chief.
A person with Ukrainian heritage to hold the top position in NATO? In a recent New York Times article, it was stated that “the race is on” to choose the next Secretary General of NATO.
“While the officials cautioned that these are early days, and very often the names that surface first do not survive the bargaining among NATO’s 30 members, they said one prime candidate has surfaced in Washington: Chrystia Freeland, 54, the Canadian-Ukrainian deputy prime minister and finance minister of Canada,” NY Times wrote.
Within Canadian political leadership, Freeland has long been seen as Ukraine’s greatest ally. According to insiders in Washington, she is a “prime candidate” to succeed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, according to The Times.
The report described further, “Ms. Freeland, 54, a former journalist (who is married to a reporter for The New York Times), has also been Canada’s foreign minister.” And listed that “Her advantages are considerable: she speaks English, French, Italian, Ukrainian and Russian; she has run complicated ministries; she is good at news conferences and other public appearances; and she would be the first woman and first Canadian ever to run NATO.”
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Over the past several days, Freeland’s candidacy for the top NATO job has received significant attention in Russian state media, which strongly suggests that Moscow would view someone of Ukrainian descent in the role as sort of an intentional and highly symbolic provocation.
Although Freeland’s mother later went back to the family’s native country and was a well-known figure within the Ukrainian independence movement that sought to challenge Soviet rule there, her grandparents fled from Ukraine to Alberta, Canada, in 1939.
According to a backgrounder from the Washington, D.C.-based research tank Wilson Center, Freeland has been on a Kremlin blacklist for quite some time:
Despite Freeland’s well established international reputation, in 2014 the Alberta-born politician found herself added to the Kremlin’s list of unwelcome visitors. Moscow has always exercised its gatekeeping abilities through territorial and border control, but how did a Canadian civil servant come to be banned from entering Russia?
The 2014 no-entry list was generated in response to sanctions imposed by both Canada and the United States after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Although the list possessed symbolic implications, reminding the international community of Russia’s willingness to respond and reject the West, Freeland’s name is of particular distinction. Her presence on that list was intentional– a decision rooted deeply in Freeland’s family history and her recent past.
The Wilson Center profile also included…
As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Freeland spent a semester abroad in Ukraine, advocating for political and social reform under the Soviet puppet state. As a pro-democracy agitator from 1988-1989, Freeland posed an acute threat to Soviet political order, a threat noted by the KGB.
As a hawk, Freeland has consistently resisted Canadian politicians and Western officials who have dared to suggest any degree of compromise or territorial concessions with Russia in exchange for a ceasefire since the Russian invasion in February. She has also remained a steadfast supporter of Ukraine.
On this front, The New York Times emphasizes, “Where any of the candidates come down on support for Ukraine in the war against Russia will be a critical factor.”
The report also points out that the selection process is still in its early stages and that other top candidates include the president of Slovakia Zuzana Caputova and the prime minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas. Recently, Stoltenberg’s tenure was extended to include the remainder of September 2023. Both Washington and Brussels seek a resolution before the following American presidential election in November 2024, according to the NYT.