Friday morning at the military airport in Brussels. Just before 06.00, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s second longest-serving secretary general, boarded a plane carrying him to Bardufoss and practiced NATO’s cold response.
– Glad to see you, he says before sitting down, and the intensity sinks again.
The previous day, he had chaired an extraordinary summit with all coalition leaders in Brussels.
There, US President Joe Biden began the meeting with a lengthy speech on the very serious security situation and the importance of Stoltenberg’s leadership to NATO, and thought he should continue.
Biden could not conclude the reason for asking member states to agree to grant his third extension to the Secretary-General until 1 October 2023.
Applause from the audience.
On the other hand, the road from Stoltenberg to the finals was long.
Last fall and this winter, even after he was appointed central bank governor, he received numerous inquiries about continuing in NATO. He said no.
Eight years were long, and he was looking forward to another life in Norway.
– My plan is to go home to Norway this fall. I had already been stretched twice and was now convinced it was right to give up. Also, he himself says that I got a job at Norges Bank.
TV2 spoke with a NATO Secretary-General on his way home from northern Norway.
Norway tour: Jens Stoltenberg is in Brussels, but on Friday he made a short trip to Norway.
After Russia’s occupation of Ukraine on February 24, relations between Stoltenberg and the heads of state and government in the coalition were higher than usual. The pressure to pursue him increased according to the intensity of the war.
One week before the summit on Thursday, President Biden announced that he would be traveling to Europe to meet with US allies. A summit was convened at short notice.
One of them is the Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Kar Store. When he left Gardermoen on Wednesday night, he knew that all NATO leaders were united in wanting to extend Stoltenberg’s mandate. The applause of the summit was to confirm what they already knew.
– Once again when I was asked by government leaders to be on the job, I decided it was important to stay in NATO, says Stoltenberg.
It also marks the resignation of the chairman of Norges Bank.
– Two decisions were made simultaneously. If I decide to stay in NATO for a long time, I know the coalition needs a general secretary. War is raging in Europe. Then he himself says that NATO will not have a general secretary who will go somewhere else over time.
All time in NATO: Jens Stoltenberg visited Norwegian and international forces in Bardofos on Friday morning.
The war in Ukraine changed everything
He also told the finance ministry that he had resigned from his post as central bank governor when he gave his final confirmation that he would accept the extension to the leaders who contacted him ahead of the summit.
– Was it a difficult choice?
– Everything has changed with the invasion of Ukraine. Before that happened, I was determined to go home, but after the invasion, there were new investigations to continue, and then I had no choice but to say yes.
– I feel it makes a lot of sense and is an obvious choice.
Stoltenberg feels it is a great obligation to the member states to ask him to continue working.
– If NATO leaders believe that I can change something as serious as peace in Europe and the security of our countries, then nothing is more important.
– What are you most afraid of in four weeks in this war?
– The most serious thing that can happen is that this war escalates into a full-scale war in Europe between NATO and Russia. That is why we have increased our presence in the East to send a clear message to Russia.
Stoltenberg is clear that NATO does not want to provoke.
– We will prevent and prevent conflict. If Russia plans to try something closer to what they did in Ukraine, it is not possible against NATO because we stand together.
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