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Stoltenberg is likely to hold his office for one more year

Stoltenberg is likely to hold his office for one more year Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General (Photo: Getty Images)
Author: RBC Ukraine

According to Euractive, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, is likely to hold his office for one more year.

Jens Stoltenberg, who has been leading NATO since October 2014, was expected to step down this autumn. However, NATO diplomats have informed that his mandate will likely be extended on June 28.

Stoltenberg's term has already been extended twice - once for a second full mandate and then again in March 2022, following the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

None of the politicians rumored as potential successors to Stoltenberg have been able to get significant support among the 31 NATO members so far.

As the appointment of a new NATO chief requires consensus and a complex selection process, no appointment can be made without prior political agreement among NATO members, particularly the quartet of major allies - France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

"Captain in the storm"

NATO diplomats within the Alliance point to Stoltenberg's proven ability to handle the military alliance during crises.

"It is not safe to change the captain during a storm," said one high-ranking NATO official.

The extension gives the Western military alliance more time to focus on its short-term and long-term support for Ukraine, instead of diving into personal debates, according to NATO diplomats.

Three NATO diplomats stated that if the Ukrainian counteroffensive had started earlier in the spring, the war could have reached a turning point and given an advantage to Kyiv before the NATO summit in Vilnius in mid-July. This would have provided enough time to open the door for a new leader of the Alliance. However, the delay in the calendar forced NATO allies to review their strategy.

When asked if he wants to keep his position, Stoltenberg said, "I am responsible for all decisions that this alliance has to take except for one. And that is about my future. That is for the 31 allies to decide."

As Stoltenberg will remain in office until October 1, 2024, the name of the next Secretary-General will likely become part of the carousel of appointments to top positions in the EU following the next European Parliament elections, scheduled for June next year.

This also means that the new NATO chief will arrive at the headquarters just a few months before the new (or incumbent) US president moves into the White House.

Candidates for NATO Secretary-General

Stoltenberg has repeatedly stated that he does not wish to stay as NATO Secretary-General, but a worthy replacement has yet to be found.

NATO member countries have discussed various options for Stoltenberg's successor. Among the possible candidates was UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace. However, his candidacy did not receive support in the US.

There were reports in the media about the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, as a potential successor to Stoltenberg, but he has already declined the position twice.

There were also rumors about appointing the Secretary-General of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Estonian government, Kaja Kallas, and the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez.

Most likely, Stoltenberg's mandate will be extended.