The power and impotence of a NATO Secretary General are closely related.
Jens Stoltenberg has recently experienced this several times.
The Norwegian learned about Donald Trump's decision to halve the troops of the NATO training mission in the Hindu Kush.
He opposed a hasty withdrawal and advocated making it conditional.
He was then consulted by the new administration in Washington, but also presented with a fait accompli.
Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.
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In another area, however, he himself set the agenda: adapting the alliance to an “insecure world”, as he always says, which is shaped by geopolitical competition, new weapon systems, cyber attacks and climate change.
Stoltenberg developed his proposals under the catchphrase “NATO 2030”.
Here and there he suffered setbacks, especially in his bid to double the Alliance's budget.
Only a moderate increase is possible for consensus.
But by and large, the Secretary General got his ideas through.
The heads of government will decide on this at the summit this Monday and give him the task of working out a new strategic concept by the next meeting in a year.
Reflection on old NATO virtues
In this way, the Norwegian can put his stamp on NATO again before his term of office expires at the end of September 2022. Since autumn 2014, Stoltenberg has been at the head of the alliance, which had to remember its old virtues with the Russian annexation of Crimea: Alliance defense against Russia.
The Norwegian pushed this transformation forward with a mixture of friendliness and tenacity. His greatest achievement was that he managed to defend the alliance against the attacks of Trump. When he threatened at the NATO summit in Brussels in 2018 that America could leave the alliance, it was also one of the darkest hours of his career for Stoltenberg. But he managed to recapture Trump by whispering to him at every opportunity how many billions the allies had already put back into their defense.
Stoltenberg, who is 62 years old, was Prime Minister of Norway for nine years before moving to Brussels. He comes from a respected family of politicians; his father was foreign and defense minister. He became involved early on in the socialist youth movement and later developed from a marijuana smoking opponent of the Vietnam War to a conservative social democrat. He is married to a diplomat and the couple have two grown children. His wife is not far in Brussels - she represents Norway as ambassador to Belgium.