Jens Stoltenberg – POLITICO

THE REPAIRMAN Dreamer No. 2 — Norway As secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg is the g...

Jens Stoltenberg


Dreamer No. 2 — Norway

As secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg is the guardian of the most concrete bastion of the post-World War II order. Having survived four years of poundings from U.S. President Donald Trump and intra-alliance agitations from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — “brain death,” was French President Emmanuel Macron’s diagnosis for NATO — Stoltenberg can be expected to spend the next year trying to undo the damage.

Stoltenberg’s greatest feat on behalf of the military alliance may have been in the communications department, endearing NATO to Trump by helping the U.S. president claim (some deserved) credit for scaring members into spending more. Now, Trump is threatening to burn the bridge behind him. Stoltenberg warned the president’s plan for an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan could come at a “very high” price.

Stoltenberg, 61, aims to restore trust among embittered allies and unite them against a growing threat from China. The task seems easier, but it’s no less of a balancing act.

The election of Joe Biden as the next U.S. president means a return to rhetorical normalcy, at least, from Washington. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced the biggest defense spending boost since the Cold War. And Trump-induced uncertainty helped prod other NATO allies to increase spending on defense for the sixth consecutive year in 2020. However, only a third are meeting the 2 percent target. Germany, notably, is not among them.

That uncertainty also motivates Macron’s push for “strategic autonomy” from the U.S. It’s a debate within the EU, not NATO, but if successful, it could have long-term consequences for the relevance of the transatlantic alliance. Despite the threats of contraction, Stoltenberg is expanding his vision for NATO. A report on strategy through 2030 lays out how to approach a “new theater for geopolitical competition” — outer space.

Check out the full POLITICO 28 Class of 2021, and read the Letter from the Editors for an explanation of the thinking behind the ranking.

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