BRUSSELS – Support mounted on Thursday for NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to have his mandate at the head of the world’s biggest security organization extended yet again as Denmark’s prime minister ruled herself out of the running.
Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, has been NATO’s top civilian official since 2014. His term was due to expire last year but was extended to keep a steady hand at the helm after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts are due to choose a successor when they meet for a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11-12. No candidate has been proposed publicly, and leaders usually decide by consensus on who should be appointed.
NATO is keen to name a woman to the top post, and Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, was thought to be a favorite after a meeting with Biden earlier this month.
In a televised interview on Thursday, Frederiksen said: “No, I am not on my way to NATO.” But she did say that she would back Stoltenberg if he was willing to extend his mandate.
Stoltenberg himself has said he will not seek a fourth extension to his mandate. An economist by training, he was due to become the next governor of the Norwegian central bank when the simmering conflict in Ukraine escalated to full-scale war last year.
At NATO headquarters, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius made clear that he would back an extension for Stoltenberg if that became necessary.
“If we don’t agree on a candidate for successor, NATO won’t be able to go without a secretary-general, and of course I am for an extension – particularly as I appreciate our cooperation,” he told reporters.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has also ruled out her candidacy.
Asked Thursday whether he would be willing to stay on in the job, Stoltenberg did not categorically rule it out, but told reporters, “I don’t have any intention of seeking an extension.” Stoltenberg’s long-time spokeswoman Oana Lungescu is leaving NATO at the end of August.