The former Norwegian Prime Minister was appointed by the 28 Allies in March to succeed Anders Fogh Rasmussen as Secretary General. Fogh Rasmussen’s term expired after 5 years and 2 months at the helm of the Alliance. Stoltenberg was previously Prime Minister of Norway from 2000-2001 and from 2005-2013.
While Stoltenberg was Prime Minister, Norway’s defence spending increased steadily, with the result that Norway is today one of the Allies with the highest per capita defence expenditure. Stoltenberg has also been instrumental in transforming the Norwegian armed forces, through a strong focus on deployable high-end capabilities. Under his leadership, the Norwegian Government has contributed Norwegian forces to various NATO operations. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Stoltenberg frequently called for NATO to focus on security challenges close to Allied territory.
Jens Stoltenberg took charge of the office of the Secretary General North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Chairman of the North Atlantic Council in 2014. Since then he has been successfully taking agenda of the organization forward. Under his dynamic leadership, NATO has made several landmark achievements on diplomatic and strategic fronts.
Mr Stoltenberg is a strong supporter of enhanced transatlantic cooperation, including better burden-sharing across the Atlantic. He sees NATO and the EU as complementary organisations in terms of securing peace and development in Europe and beyond. Stoltenberg has had a number of international assignments. These include chairing the UN High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence and the High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing. He was also UN Special Envoy on Climate Change. Stoltenberg is married to Ingrid Schulerud. Together they have two grown-up children.
Jens Stoltenberg visited the White House just couple of months after Donald Trump became President in 2017 and held a joint press conference with President Trump. He made it clear to President Trump that, NATO is obsolete, but NATO is not [sic] longer obsolete as NATO has been able to change and especially in two areas; in the fight against terrorism, NATO Allies and NATO members are Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS all of us together, have made enormous progress in defeating ISIS.
Under his leadership, NATO allies played key role in rooting out ISIS from Syria and ISIS have lost control over the territory they controlled just a few years ago the same size of territory was equal to United Kingdom, eight million people and they were actually able to threaten Baghdad. So, if NATO Allies, the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh or ISIS, hadn’t acted, then there could be very dangerous and difficult situation in the whole region, Iraq and Syria. Actually, NATO is not on the ground in Syria, but NATO is focusing on the fight against terrorism in different ways.
As per his vision, NATO is focusing on training local forces to take charge of law and order in Afghanistan, Syria and other restive areas to statblize their own countries instead of deploying a good number of combat troops. Therefore, now NATO is more and more focused on helping the Afghans to stabilise their own country as well as helping the Iraqis to stabilise their own country and fight terrorism themselves. This approach is based on the fact that deployed combat troops are considered as foreigners by the local forces and they remain always be foreign troops in a foreign country.
NATO Allies agreed in 2014 that they couldn’t an imbalanced burden-sharing and the good news was that over the last years NATO members have seen a significant increase in defence spending from European Allies and Canada. Just since 2016, and by the end of next year 2020, they will have added hundred, one hundred billion extra US dollars for their defence spending.
Democracy, freedom and the sanctity of the individual are core Western values and the foundation of our societies. These values are universal values and they’re also core values for NATO. It’s actually in our founding treaty that NATO is based on democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
As Secretary General NATO Jens Stoltenberg believes that the purpose of disinformation is, of course, to undermine trust in democratic institutions. NATO helps to counter that in different ways, countering disinformation online, on paper, in the air, in different media platforms. He strongly believes that the answer to propaganda is not propaganda or disinformation, but the answer to propaganda, from NATO’s side, is facts. It’s the truth. Because we are confident that in the long run the truth will prevail.
Under his leadership, NATO can help Slovakia to address disinformation in Slovakia, but the best people to address disinformation in Slovakia are people in Slovakia. According to him the best way to deal with disinformation, propaganda, misuse of social media, is to have a free, independent press. To have journalists who ask the difficult questions. Journalists and media which are able to check their sources, because then, in the long run, this will be exposed to as what it is: attempts to meddle, attempt to mislead.
According to him, NATO follows the rule of spending 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on Defence and this rule is not something which is invented by the United States, but is agreed by 29 Allies. However, it is a fact that European politicians prefer to spend money on something else than defence as they like to spend money on education, on health, on infrastructure, instead of spending money on defence. This is why all European Allies reduced defence spending after the end of the Cold War, in the 1990s and the beginning of 2000 as they felt more safe, tensions went down. But he advocates that defence spending may be reduced when tensions are going down, Europeans must be to increase defence spending when tensions are going up.
Sensing threat from Russia, under his leadership NATO deployed four battle groups, four battalions in the three Baltic States and Poland. Previously NATO did not have any combat-ready presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance. This deployment was very important to make sure that nothing like what happened in Georgia may take place where Russia used force against Georgia in 2008, or like in Crimea or Donbass, can happen to any NATO Ally. NATO deployed these battle groups and also has some presence in Romania and the Black Sea region. These battle groups are combat-ready. They are extremely important because they send a clear message that any kind of aggression against one of these countries will trigger a whole response from the whole Alliance, because the whole Alliance is already there.
Historically, NATO has always had a technological edge, meaning that the most advanced technologies, the most advanced weapon systems, have always been developed by NATO and NATO Allies, and, of course, the United States has been key, because of their size. Now in the wake of serious challenges coming from China, he proposes two kinds of acts regarding use of artificial intelligence; one is investing in technology, artificial intelligence for instance. Therefore every country must increase defence spending, because this is not only about increasing more, spending more, but also about making sure that 20 percent of the defence budget is used for investments and research and technology.
Moreover, he pinpoints another challenge of developing mechanisms to avoid an arms race with these new technologies. That’s not so easy. Even during the coldest period of the Cold War. At least in the 60s and the 70s, the two superpowers the Soviet Union and United States, the Warsaw Pact and NATO were able to agree on ways to limit the number of nuclear weapons and actually gradually start to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, which were the most advanced weapons at that time.
Under his guidance, NATO is working for a peaceful solution of Crimea between Ukraine and Russia through full implementation of the Minsk Agreements: ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, and also allow the international monitors, representing an organisation called OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to allow them to operate freely and safely in eastern Ukraine, or Donbass. This is the only way to a peaceful solution, and NATO strongly supports those efforts. NATO also helps Ukraine with some capacity-building, cyber, logistics as well as with the command structure.
He sees a great potential for cooperation with China. China is a rising power, a strong economy. And there is a potential to work with China in many different areas. At the same time he sees some challenges.