NATO Secretary General Emphasizes Loyalty, Adaptation

In remarks at GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the alliance as the “most successful” in history.

Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said "NATO is changing," in remarks at GW's Elliott School of International Affairs on Thursday. Mr. Stoltenberg had met the day before with President Donald Trump. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
April 13, 2017

Just a day after his meeting with President Donald Trump, NATO’s highest-ranking civilian, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, delivered remarks at GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs, stressing the continued importance and relevance of the alliance.

“NATO is the most successful alliance in history,” Mr. Stoltenberg told a packed City View Room on Thursday, in a conversation moderated by Kurt Volker, M.A. ’87, executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University and former U.S. permanent representative to NATO.

Mr. Stoltenberg emphasized that countries’ strength of unity—what he described as a “one for all, all for one” approach—has been critical to the success of NATO.

The strength of the alliance, he said, also has come from preventing conflict and enabling deterrence—not from provoking conflict. Over the decades, NATO has adapted to deter the Soviet Union from attacking Western Europe, end wars in the Balkans, fight terrorism in Afghanistan and manage other crises.

“When the world is changing, NATO is changing,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

Today, as NATO changes again, Mr. Stoltenberg noted a continued need to project stability; increase its presence; and focus on collective defense, especially, he said, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

NATO’s defensive, proportionate and measured approach to situations means it will “continue to seek dialogue with Russia,” managing its relationship in the “best way possible,” Mr. Stoltenberg said, adding Russia was one of the main issues he and Mr. Trump discussed Wednesday.

Mr. Stoltenberg also said he believed Mr. Trump and his administration have been “consistent” with respect to their message on NATO, and that he believes they see value in the alliance, want it to continue to adapt to do more to fight terrorism and ensure that all countries contribute fairly.

Thursday’s event, “NATO in an Age of Uncertainty,” was part of the Elliott School’s “Leadership in International Affairs: Lessons Learned” series.

Mr. Stoltenberg served twice as the prime minister of Norway. He also served in the Norwegian government as minister of industry and energy and as minister of finance. He was also previously a member of parliament.

George Washington President Steven Knapp, who gave opening remarks, called Mr. Stoltenberg a “distinguished” public servant.

“As secretary general of NATO, Mr. Stoltenberg has enhanced transatlantic cooperation and has strengthened ties with the European Union to secure peace and economic development in Europe and beyond,” Dr. Knapp said.

Mr. Stoltenberg also had some praise:

“To be here today is to be at one of the most recognized institutions when it comes to educating leaders, especially within diplomacy and foreign service,” he said.

Later, he added: “The students at this university and at the Elliott School—they are the leaders of tomorrow.”

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