NATO boss ‘surprised’ by extended term

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Jens Stoltenberg, the former Norwegian prime minister who became secretary general of NATO in 2014, said he was “surprised” but also “honoured” that his term of duty was extended this week by another two years. He thinks it gives him an even stronger mandate than he already had.

NATO’s Norwegian secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has been asked to stay on for another two years, and he agreed to do so. PHOTO: NATO

“I was under the impression that there was a clear rule that you could only serve five years,” Stoltenberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Both his immediate predecessors served five years and no one has served longer than that since the end of the Cold War.

When NATO member nations first tapped him in 2013, it was for a four-year term that began in 2014. He’d said he was willing to serve a fifth year if asked.

Instead, representatives of NATO’s now-29 allies decided this week to extend Stoltenberg’s term by two years, until September 2020. “I was a bit surprised, but I was also honoured,” Stoltenberg said when he was asked to keep serving. He quickly agreed.

A likeable guy
The 58-year-old Stoltenberg has succeeded in transferring his widespread popularity in Norway to the international arena. He was well-liked in Norway, also by opposition politicians, and he seems well-liked among NATO nations’ leaders as well.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has long been a big fan of Stoltenberg’s and was among those, along with former US President Barack Obama, pushing for him to get and take the job four years ago. British Prime Minister Theresa May also wanted Stoltenberg to extend his tenure now, calling him “a genuine fighter” for NATO.

Even US President Donald Trump, whose conservative politics and views are miles away from Stoltenberg’s when he was prime minister and head of Norway’s Labour Party, has spoken highly of Stoltenberg and had no objections to proposals that he stay on. Stoltenberg had also managed to get along well with Russian leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev when he was Norway’s prime minister and both complimented him when he became NATO chief.

Now Stoltenberg thinks he’ll have a stronger mandate in his extended term. “Instead of this being the beginning of the end of my period, I’m just halfway through it,” he told NRK.

Lots of work ahead
NATO itself, meanwhile, is in the midst of is biggest restructuring and refinancing since the Cold War as well. Trump has been highly critical of NATO and demanded European members pay more than they have in dues. Stoltenberg had also called for that before Trump became US president.

Stoltenberg claimed that while “the world has become more dangerous, NATO has become stronger” and his goal is to secure all member nations against military attack.

He wouldn’t speculate on what might happen after 2020 or what he may want to do at that point. His wife, career diplomat Ingrid Schulerud, has been serving as Norway’s ambassador to Belgium and could thus live with her husband in Brussels where NATO is headquartered. He’s already being tipped for other international roles, even as head of the UN.

“Now I’ve just had my term extended to 2020,” Stoltenberg told NRK, in declining to talk about what he and Schulerud might have planned for the future. He said he finds his NATO post “very meaningful” and that “my experience from Norwegian politics is that it’s important to focus on the job you have, and not the next one.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund