Foreign policy expert Ahto Lobjakas says NATO’s next secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, will focus more on behind-the-scenes diplomacy. In contrast, Lobjakas said, his two predecessors Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Anders Fogh Rasmussen too often seemed to focus on public appearances.
Lobjakas told uudised.err.ee on Friday that naming former Norwegian prime minister Stoltenberg as the next secretary general could be seen as a nod to Nordic countries Sweden and Finland that are not members but have close ties with the alliance.
“Stoltenberg’s name was on the report on enhancing regional defense co-operation, commissioned by the foreign ministers of five Nordic countries in 2008. It could be assumed that if Finland and Sweden are ever going to join NATO - and the public opinion is becoming positive towards the option - a Norwegian secretary general would be an almost ideal mediator,” Lobjakas said.
He added that enhanced defense co-operation between Nordic NATO members and Nordic non-members is one of the most important national interests of Estonia.
“One could say that Stoltenberg is the closest thing to an Eastern European secretary general of NATO - Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski would have been it,” Lobjakas said.
He also highlighted the fact that Norway shares a border with Russia and is also an Arctic country - a region where NATO’s interest also clashes with Russia.
According to Lobjakas, Stoltenberg continues the tradition of the secretary general having experience as prime minister - Stoltenberg successfully headed the Norwegian government for 10 years.
“His main role is to offer diplomatic leadership to the alliance, but the last two secretaries have put a somewhat narcissistic emphasis on the public side of this diplomacy at the expense of behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Perhaps the fact that Rasmussen’s successor was named already six months before his term ends indicates a certain discontenct with him,” Lobjakas said.