Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg’s term as head of the western military alliance was extended by another year on Thursday, a reflection of concerns over a change at the top the organisation during Russia’s attack of Ukraine.
“Allies thanked the secretary-general for his leadership and dedication, particularly at this critical moment for international security,” Nato said in a statement after the decision was taken by all 30 members at a Brussels summit.
Stoltenberg, who was due to become head of Norway’s central bank after departing the alliance in September, will now serve until 30 September 2023.
An extension for the 63-year-old former Norwegian prime minister, who has led Nato since 2014, was backed by Washington. In addition to concerns over a leadership change during war, Nato is grappling with broader debates over Europe’s security the alliance’s long-term strategy.
Stoltenberg on Thursday said Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine last month had left Europe “facing the most serious security crisis in a generation”.
In response, Nato has dramatically scaled up its military deployments in eastern European countries close to Russia and Ukraine, including the creation of new multinational battle groups in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia to join those already present in Poland and the three Baltic states, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
Nato has also pushed for alliance members to increase collective defence spending and to formulate a longer-term defence strategy in response to Russia’s invasion.
Stoltenberg had been due to step down at the end of September to take on a role as governor of Norway’s central bank and chair of its $1.3tn oil fund. The country’s finance ministry said on Wednesday it was “preparing for a situation where Stoltenberg will not take office as governor at the end of this year as planned”.
Stoltenberg’s term as Nato’s top political official has already been extended once: he was given an extra two years in office in 2019. He is the alliance’s second-longest-serving secretary-general.
“We think that Jens Stoltenberg has been doing a fantastic job — and day in, day out has played a critical leadership role for Nato,” said Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, on Wednesday. “Stoltenberg is a real asset to the alliance.”