Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is now the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s 13th secretary general, replacing the former Prime Minister of Denmark, Fogh Rasmussen. Stoltenberg was appointed in March 2014 and officially assumed the leadership position October 1st, 2014.
According to Patrick Jackson of BBC News, Mr. Stoltenberg initially appeared to be an unlikely candidate for the job, being an economist with no defense background, a social democrat with good relations with Russia and another Scandinavian immediately following the former Prime Minister of Denmark. Jackson highlights that despite both being Scandinavian, Mr. Stoltenberg presents a sharp contrast to his conservative predecessor; while Mr. Rasmussen was uncompromising and harsh about Russia, many east Europeans are concerned that incumbent Stoltenberg may be too lenient towards Russia in the Ukraine crisis and generally too pro-Russian.
Jackson offers a profile on Mr. Stoltenberg, highlighting that Mr. Stoltenberg’s father, Thorvald Stoltenberg, was the former defense and foreign minister of Norway. Jackson elaborates that Mr. Stoltenberg followed his father’s footsteps to the Norwegian Labor Party and was first elected Prime Minister in 2000 at the age of 40, though his government lasted only 2 years. Mr. Stoltenberg returned to the post in 2005 at the head of the coalition of the Socialist Left and Centre parties, and again in 2009. In 2010, Mr. Stoltenberg signed an agreement with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to resolve a decades-long border dispute. In 2012, Russia-Norway relations improved once more under Mr. Stoltenberg’s government when a visa-free zone was created along their land border. Mr. Stoltenberg’s government was defeated in 2013 when it lost to the center-right.
Jackson notes that Mr. Stoltenberg was interestingly German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s choice to lead NATO, an alliance that is “often regarded as the main instrument for keeping America in Europe”. Jackson claims that “it appears that Mrs. Merkel approached the former prime minister with the idea of heading NATO, an idea then endorsed by the Obama administration” and “despite the political differences between the Norwegian social democrat and the German conservative, the two had worked well together”.
Jackson reports that while it remains unclear where the chancellor of Germany, the European Union’s dominant state, wants to go with NATO, he notes that commonalities between the new head of the European Commission, conservative Jean-Claude Juncker, and Mr. Stoltenberg are that “both are Merkel allies [and] consensus politicians”.
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Jackson, Peter. “Profile: NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg” BBC News [Europe], 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.