OSLO: From his youth as an anti-war activist who hurled stones at the US Embassy to his later years as Norway’s leading statesman and negotiator, Jens Stoltenberg will take over the reins of Nato with honed skills in both confrontation and compromise.
The former prime minister and UN climate change envoy will assume the role of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general from October 1 at a delicate time for the security group over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
“If the task for Nato now is to defuse the crisis with Russia over Ukraine, then Stoltenberg will be eminent. He thrives on compromise. If the task is escalation, he won’t be bad, but there are others who could do a better job,” said Frank Aarebrot, professor of comparative politics at the University of Bergen and an acquaintance of Stoltenberg. “He has a strong presence, in the Bill Clinton sort of way. When he’s talking to you, you feel like the most important person in the world,” Aarebrot said.
The son of a former defence and foreign minister, Stoltenberg, 55, negotiated a deal with Russia that ended a four-decade dispute over their Arctic maritime borders and built a personal friendship with then-president Dmitry Medvedev.
He has made it clear that the annexation of Crimea by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which has raised the need for Nato to boost its presence on Europe’s eastern edge, cannot stand.
“Russia’s use of military force to modify its borders is unacceptable,” Stoltenberg said. “The conflict in Ukraine must be a political solution... We will not live in a world where the strongest one prevails.”
“Russia’s move is in breach of international law and it’s a type of power policy that belongs in a past era.” Stoltenberg, who lived several years as a child in Belgrade, served 22 years in parliament and was prime minister from 2005 to 2013. “His strength is that he’s got a vast political network and good political intuition... and he will also listen to civil society, not just people within the ‘security cage’,” said Jan Egeland, a former UN Under-Secretary General.