NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is skipping a chance to exit the post to guide the alliance through the unprecedented risks of confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin and reportedly securing "the long-term health of the alliance."
The former Norwegian prime minister took the helm at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2014 after Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and has since expanded the military alliance through its biggest expansion since the Cold War, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In March, amid Russia's invasion of NATO partner Ukraine, he agreed to extend a term due to expire in September by one year. A nine-year tenure would make him the alliance's longest-serving secretary-general since the 1980s, the Journal noted.
The war has turned his job into a balancing act — facing down Moscow while avoiding a direct military confrontation even as many NATO members worry about pushing Putin to use nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the news outlet noted.
He frequently repeats, "Putin wanted less NATO, and instead he's getting more NATO," the Journal reported.
But Stoltenberg won new confidence with his ability to navigate political minefields at NATO's annual summit in Madrid, where he struck a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, the Journal reported.
It was also typical of his political savvy.
When former President Donald Trump criticized allies for not spending enough on defense in 2018, Stoltenberg quickly arranged a meeting, the Journal noted.
"Jens Stoltenberg was determined to work with President Trump come what may," Rose Gottemoeller, a former senior State Department official who served as deputy secretary-general for three years until 2019, told the Journal.
Thanks to his success, she told the news outlet, "he became known as the Trump Whisperer."
"It's about finding solutions that are acceptable for everyone," he has said, the Journal reported.
Gottemoeller said under Stoltenberg, the position of secretary-general has changed.
"He took that role and parlayed it into NATO becoming much more of a political institution," she said.
Gordon "Skip" Davis, a retired U.S. Army major general who served as a NATO deputy assistant secretary-general until September, told the Journal Stoltenberg's goal has been to keep the alliance focused on its core mission of protecting its members.
"Stoltenberg is looking after the long-term health of the alliance," Mr. Davis said.
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