NATO’s New Secretary-General Takes Over Alliance in Need of Money—and Unity

NATO’s New Secretary-General Takes Over Alliance in Need of Money—and Unity
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Oct. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Jens Stoltenberg, former prime minister of Norway, assumed the position of secretary-general of NATO on Oct. 1. He takes over the job at an important juncture for NATO: With the drawdown in Afghanistan and tensions with Russia running high over Ukraine, there are many questions about the alliance’s future.

“Being secretary-general of NATO is one of the most difficult jobs in international diplomacy,” Jorge Benitez, director of NATOSource at the Atlantic Council, says in an email interview. “Most national leaders find it hard to manage the many competing interests of their domestic political systems. The secretary-general of NATO has to manage the leaders and national interests of 28 democracies, plus 40 international partners. It is a job full of expectations and challenges, but the secretary-general is given little power and few resources.”

“There are three top tasks the new secretary-general should embrace in the coming years,” Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe, wrote in a recent blog post. These include getting member states to increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP, making the readiness action plan agreed on at the Wales Summit in September a reality and having member states admit their inability to deploy what few resources they have to conflict zones around the world.

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