NATO finalizes the extension of Stoltenberg's mandate for another year | International

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The Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg has all the tricks to remain another year as NATO Secretary General. At a key moment in Russia's war in Ukraine and as Vladimir Putin's regime begins to show cracks and weakness that may have ramifications across the globe, the allies have agreed that it is desirable for the former Norwegian prime minister to remain at the helm. of the Atlantic Alliance at least until the Washington summit next year, according to allied sources.

The leaders of the 31 member countries of the organization, of which Spain is a part, planned to appoint a new secretary general at the Vilnius (Lithuania) summit on July 11 and 12. But the impulse of the United States to Stoltenberg and the lack of another clear candidate -desirably a candidate- have meant that the favorite option is to extend the Norwegian, who has been in office since 2014 and has already extended his mandate two other times. The last one was in March last year, in the early stages of the invasion launched by the Kremlin.

The decision to extend Stoltenberg has not yet been finalized, but it is expected that his adjustments will be finalized next week, the last week of preparation before the decisive meeting in Lithuania, in which the Alliance will determine the relationship model it maintains with Ukraine. Kiev will not be offered membership, but a commitment to long-term support through a financial support plan to modernize its army and bring it up to NATO standards.

Stoltenberg, 64, had insisted for months that he wants to leave office. It has been his permanent and sustained message. And other names had emerged to lead the organization, such as the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, the United Kingdom Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, or the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis. Even the one of the president of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, sounded. However, none of them has gathered the support of the 31 members of the Alliance and they have ended up being ruled out, as Frederiksen has done, who in recent days has also advocated Stoltenberg's continuity. The allies must make the decision by consensus, but it is the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany (the countries with the most weight in the organization) who will have a decisive position.

Biden's endorsement

It has been fundamentally the support of the United States that has tipped the balance in favor of Stoltenberg extending for the third time. The NATO Secretary General traveled to Washington a few weeks ago and received the support and request to stay from US President Joe Biden, according to diplomatic sources. Stoltenberg is due to leave office in September, according to his extended term, but the White House wants him to remain until mid-2024, the 75th anniversary of the Washington Treaty, which laid the legal foundations of the Atlantic Alliance.

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The allies believe it is "advisable" that Stoltenberg stay on for another year. Not only because of Russia's war in Ukraine, but also because he is already familiar with the dynamics of the organization and its projection abroad, but also internally, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the discussions about the extension of the Norwegian's mandate. Under Stoltenberg's coordination, NATO has been revitalized due to the invasion launched by the Kremlin and has experienced a crucial expansion with the entry of Finland and awaits the entry of Sweden. The Norwegian is also pressuring the allies to raise their defense budgets beyond the 2% of GDP objective that the Alliance now sets (although few countries reach it) and claims that this percentage be the "floor and not the ceiling".

The extension of Stoltenberg's mandate would have another added variable: the replacement at the head of the NATO general secretariat next year could coincide with the distribution of other key posts within the European Union, after the elections to the European Parliament in June. After these elections, it will be decided again who heads the European Commission, the Council of the EU or the European Parliament. Traditionally, this process had always been separate and had not wanted to join the NATO crossword puzzle, but in recent times the option of a joint movement has gained strength.

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