Thyra Dane

Author of Romance. Blogs about Scandinavia, Vikings and books.

Apparently NATO has turned it into a habit of picking former Scandinavian prime ministers to the important post of being their general secretary. The current GS is a former Danish prime minister and the next one is a former Norwegian prime minister.

So what is the world getting when we have Jens Stoltenberg looking out for us? We’re getting this guy (Putin, be afraid. Be very afraid):

Jens Stoltenberg - muscles from Oslo

Jens Stoltenberg – muscles from Oslo

Yes, this picture was from his youth and the origin of it is actually pretty cool. It was part of a campaign to show the diverse roles of a modern man and that you’re not less “manly” just because you clean the house (yes, there was a time when even Scandinavian men were afraid that cleaning and vacuuming would make their testicles shrink). Here is another picture from the same campaign:


Jens Stoltenberg - not afraid of sweeping up your dirt

Jens Stoltenberg – not afraid of sweeping up your dirt


Who is Jens Stoltenberg?

Apart from appearing in cool campaigns and being Norway’s former prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg is actually quite a remarkable person. I’ve never voted for him myself – mainly because I can’t vote since I’m not Norwegian and because I’m not a fan of his party – but I’ve always felt kind of …. safe …. knowing that he was managing things. I hope the world will end up feeling the same.

Jens Stoltenberg makes you feel safe

Jens Stoltenberg makes you feel safe

He is the man who:

  • Showed us compassion and sense of community instead of anger and thoughts of revenge after the Oslo bombing and the killing of innocent young people on Utøya in 2011.

    Jens Stoltenberg asking us to stand together against terror

    Jens Stoltenberg asking us to stand together against terror

  • Discovered Twitter and other social media back when he was stranded on an airport in the US when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted back in 2010. He is now a prominent user of especially Twitter but also Facebook.
    Jens Stoltenberg discovers Twitter

    Jens Stoltenberg discovers Twitter


  • Took paternity leave as one of very few men (today most Norwegian men take paternity leave but when Axel Stoltenberg was born, it was indeed a rare thing).
    Jens Stoltenberg on paternity leave with his son Axel

    Jens Stoltenberg on paternity leave with his son Axel


  • Has a wife with her own career and who is allowed her anonymity. Now, this shouldn’t be strange or weird or anything to write home about (the current Norwegian prime minister has a husband with his own career) but if you look at prime ministers elsewhere, you won’t find many with wives with as important careers as Ingrid Schulerud – or wives who are allowed to escape the limelight to the degree she has.
    Jens Stoltenberg kissing his wife Ingrid Schulerud after the Oslo bombing and Utøya shooting

    Jens Stoltenberg kissing his wife Ingrid Schulerud after the Oslo bombing and Utøya shooting


  • Used to lead an organization that was against NATO. Yes, you heard me. Jens Stoltenberg was elected leader of AUF – the youth division of the Labor party he later led – back when AUF was against NATO. He was pro-NATO himself and managed to change AUF’s views on the organization he is now going to be general secretary for.
    Jens Stoltenberg and Gro Harlem Brundtland back when Jens Stoltenberg was the leader of AUF and Gro Harlem Brundtland was prime minister of Norway

    Jens Stoltenberg and Gro Harlem Brundtland back when Jens Stoltenberg was the leader of AUF and Gro Harlem Brundtland was prime minister of Norway


  • Loves to ride his bicycle. I’m not sure if he’s going to put his NATO chauffeur on unemployment benefits but Jens Stoltenberg is a man who loves his bike. Even as a prime minister you would see him ride his bike everywhere.
    Jens Stoltenberg on his bicycle

    Jens Stoltenberg on his bicycle


So NATO is getting a man who does not consider revenge when terror strikes, who can put his career on hold for the sake of his children and who supports his wife’s career, who is for gender equality, who is accessible through social media, who is for NATO but not blindly and who is both concerned with his personal health and the environment.

I’m not sure these are the most important parts of Jens Stoltenberg or if they’ll describe our future NATO general secretary in full, but they do describe a likable man, I think. And who is better to steer NATO in times of trouble than a man you truly like?

I can’t think of any.


15 thoughts on “The new general secretary of NATO – Jens Stoltenberg

  1. Music TJ says:

    Reblogged this on Music TJ and commented:
    Came across this. I didn’t write it. Wish I had, so it had to be reblogged.

  2. Yes, Thyra, he is a nice chap. He cheerfully allowed my son to take a selfie with him at Akerbrygge! BUT does the Western World need another warmonger at this point in time? Do we really need someone who makes Putin afraid, and (arguably) therefore more likely to react severely to some manufactured crisis? If my memory is accurate: during the same week as the Utoeya incident, Norwegian planes were strafing and bombing civilians in Libya as part of NATO’s military adventure there. Not a great recommendation, for a human-rights nutter like me! Sorry!

    1. thyra10 says:

      So your son has a selfie with the next general secretary of NATO. Not bad 😉

      I am no fan of NATO. I’m a fan of the UN and their peacekeeping struggles (though they are far from perfect) but not NATO. I am also no fan of Norway always being the yes-country to whatever aggressive idea someone (read:the US) else has.

      But I do accept the fact that NATO exists and I do think that Jens Stoltenberg is a better person than his predecessor (who is an aggressor of heart). I would rather have a nice person in position as general secretary of NATO than a right-wing war monger like Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Unfortunately Jens Stoltenberg being a nice guy with a good outlook on life is, by far, no guarantee that NATO will make the right choices in the future. And sadly, often there will be no right choices.

    2. thyra10 says:

      Oh, and my comment about Putin being afraid was mainly a joke because of the first picture I posted 😀
      I don’t think fear is the first emotion you have when you think of Jens Stoltenberg 😉

      1. Oh, OK. Sorry for missing the irony! And I agree with you about everything else. Still friends, then!

        (My young grandchildren are Norskies, hence my genuine interest in the country and its alliances.)

    3. thyra10 says:

      That’s perfectly okay. To me the irony was clear but then I “know” Jens Stoltenberg and know that fear is not really something he brings up in anyone. Our largest newspaper even had on their front page today that “Yes, he can be tough” because no one believes he can here.
      But to people from other countries the irony is not obvious and I probably should have written it in a way to make it clear that we’re not getting a general secretary who will have Putin shaking in his boots – even if he flexed his muscles in a picture from his youth 😉 .
      He does have other qualities – he’s great at bringing people together and at negotiating – and I think those qualities will be important in the near and more distant future.
      I don’t envy him his new role, though. He’ll have Ukraine thrown into his lap – along with so many other conflicts. I just hope he can find paths that don’t lead to more war but also paths that don’t lead to more people living under oppressive governments.

  3. Eric Swanson says:

    I think it is excellent that Jens Stoltenberg will be moving into the NATO position. It is important that the smaller countries have influence in what NATO decides to do about things. On the other hand, if it weren’t for the British and the Americans, I don’t think Europe would be free today. No offense America haters, but Europe would still be under the thumb of Nazi Germany or the USSR if it weren’t for the efforts of the English speaking people and all of the blood they shed for your freedom, as well as ours. Thanks, Denmark for sending more aircraft to Estonia. Anders Fogh Rasmussen made an excellent recommendation in this case. Thank you USA for sending military units to Poland and the Baltics to keep Russia in check. Lots of folks in Europe like to criticize the Americans, but when it comes to putting fires out like Yugoslavia and Russian annexations, not much happens until the Americans and British decide that enough is enough. We can’t do it all alone, so we appreciate it when the less powerful help out through NATO. Cheers!

    1. thyra10 says:

      I don’t know any “USA-haters” and am certainly not one myself. I’m going to the US this summer, I was there last summer AND last winter and I am so thrilled with how I’m met. The openness and warmth and people being so very friendly.

      Blood was spilled by all parties during WWII and I’m sure the world would have looked very different today if not for the collected efforts from all the involved countries.

      Norway and Denmark have been – our size considered – major contributors to NATOs achievements. I don’t agree with all of it (I would prefer a stronger UN but I can certainly see UN’s limits too) but it still doesn’t take away our efforts.

  4. I don’t think there are any “America-haters” here, Eric – unless you mean haters of rampaging empires in general and of whatever stripe. Maybe your and my parents and grandparents were “Germany-haters”, but if they had any objectivity at all they should have limited their hatred to the rampaging German Empire ruled by the Nazis. They shouldn’t have hated the German people as a whole – although some of them probably did.

    We all need to bear in mind the ebb and flow of history. It was the British and US governments who in 1945 allowed the rampaging Soviet Empire to rule Poland, Estonia, etc. That wasn’t nice of them. Now the rampaging NATO Empire seems bent on fulfilling George Orwell’s vision of Perpetual Warfare, and beating the bejesus out of every Moslem wedding party their drones can reach, in order to maintain the supply of enemies. That’s not nice, either. Does Stoltenberg intend for NATO to continue that policy? Time will tell.

    Historically, the US and British governments have been the Bad Guys as often as they have been the Good Guys. What goes around, comes around…

    1. thyra10 says:

      There’s always a danger when a country feels it possesses THE TRUTH and everyone else is wrong. Several countries have made that mistake but it certainly has more consequences when large countries are in that frame of mind than when small countries are. Scandinavian countries have certainly made mistakes on that account but our luck is that we’re small and our incluence is minor. So we can make our mistakes and not bring pain to too many other countries on that account.

  5. Eric Swanson says:

    @ Gordon Barlow – I will not take up space on Tyra’s blog to explain where I am coming from, but my life is pretty much an open book and one is welcome to read about my ideas on facebook. I will only say that I find the view of the USA and UK as antisocial empires amazing, but a tribute to democracy none the less, because our English-speaking (UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) tradition values free speech and a free press, as well it should. In some ways I feel a little like Winston Churchill must have felt when he warned about the Nazi program. Putin’s program is potentially very dangerous. I would rather focus on climate change and social justice, but Putin’s challenge to cooperation and security in Europe cannot be ignored. Already there are rumblings that Eastern Ukraine ought to become a part of the Russian Federation. Where will this end if we allow Putin to take a piece of this country and that country so that all of the Russians can be reunited with the motherland, regardless of what residents in this country want? No one I know wants us to return to the cold war. My hope is that Jens Stoltenberg will be able to encourage Mr. Putin to avail himself of the Council for Cooperation and Security in Europe (CCSE) to address his concerns about the language an cultural rights of ethnic Russians in other European countries. For example, Finland is a bilingual and multicultural society. Perhaps some lessons about bilingualism from Finland are applicable in the countries where Putin is complaining about treatment of the ethnic Russians. Putin may even have some valid points and I favor a society in which all people are treated fairly and given equal opportunities to succeed in life. All the same I am glad NATO, including Denmark, are sending military units to Poland and the Baltics to underline that these countries are protected by NATO under article 5 (collective mutual defense) of our treaty. The USA and Canada will continue to be active in CCSE and NATO. We do not want chaos to develop in Europe. I don’t feel I am saying I have the entire truth, but CCSE and NATO ensure all participant voices are heard. I think that Jens Stoltenberg will probably be good as a moderator and in giving every country an opportunity to make their voices heard. I believe in the decision making processes in these organizations and that all of the countries involved should have their say and should be judged by the reasonableness of their position rather than the size of their nation.

    1. thyra10 says:

      As long as people have respectful discussions, you can take up alle the space you want here 🙂

      As a neighbor to Russia, we do watch what is happening in Ukraine with worry. The whole reason behind Russia’s actions – “protection” of a Russian minority – is scary because you’ll find Russian minorities in a lot of Russia’s neighbors. Most of that minority comes from an active moving of people – the local people to other parts of the Soviet Union and Russians to the parts of the Soviet Union where few Russians lived. A country should not gain land because of “artificial” minorities but it happens.

      I’ve spent a lot of time in South Tyrol – a part of Italy that does not feel Italian. Or rather, the people who lived there before Mussolini’s forceful moving of Tyrolians to the south of Italy and Italians to Tyrol do not feel Italian. They speak Tyrolian (a German dialect – but don’t call them German), have their own schools and their own churches. They used to be oppressed by Mussolini and even up in the 70s and one might remember the bombings back in the 60s where they fought back. Now they have some autonomy but if they could choose, I’m sure they would prefer to be with their brethren, the North Tyrolians who live in Austria.

      This is never going to happen, though, because the Tyrolians are (depending on how you count) only a small majority or even a minority in South Tyrol. Italians dominate the larger cities.

      Using nationality as a reason to change borders is always risky business. As I said, it might be unfair because of the forceful moving of people and who should be allowed to choose?

      And even if you had a fair vote on the subject, it might still end up being unfair – as we saw it with Denmark and Germany after WW1. A large part of Jutland had been taken by Germany back in 1864 and they had to decide how much should be returned to Denmark. They divided the area into three pieces where they started north and had them vote – they voted Denmark. Then they had the middle part vote and there was a small majority for Germany – which meant the southern part never got to vote.

      If they’d divided the three parts into two or into four, Denmark would have had a larger part – the Danish minority in Germany was larger than the German minority in Denmark.

      Why am I going into these details? It’s to emphasize that there isn’t a right or wrong or a correct answer to the problem with Russian minorities in her neighbor countries. At least not border-wise. The best way to deal with it is, as you said, as Finland did. Give the minority full rights as a minority and make sure they are taken care of. Language is a problem – but learning two national languages shouldn’t be. They do it in so many countries.

      I agree with you that we need to stop Russia – and we did not set very good standards with Georgia. I’m just not sure how to stop Russia and I hope Jens Stoltenberg does (fortunately I’m not paid to know and he soon is 😀 ). I do think a man who is a good negotiator is what NATO needs now. We don’t want war. But we also don’t want Russian aggression spreading to more neighbors (or even spreading to more parts of Ukraine).

      1. Eric Swanson says:

        There are also advantages in multilingual countries. All in all, Sweden and Finland have excellent relations and part of the reason is the open minded policies of both Sweden and Finland with regards to language. Finnish is an official language in Sweden and Swedish is an official language in Finland. This policy has created trust and is also good for the economies of both countries. The Finland Sweden relationship also shows that the trauma of a colonial relationship can be overcome. In North America, the English speaking majority has become concious in varying degrees of the advantages of multilingualism at least for French and Spanish. One can speak a minority language and still be loyal to the country of residence. American business are finding that knowing French in Canada and Spanish in Latin America promotes trust, long term relationships and good business deals. A feeling of North Americanness helps us put our past behind us (Yes, USA did take a large part of Mexico and some of Canada. As well USA did some other bad things) and promotes the idea that disputes should be handled within the context of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other transnational and international organizations. So this is the vision that USA and Canada bring to the table at the CSCE and NATO meetings. Peace benefits everyone. We need to focus on coping with climate change and environmental protection.

  6. Not a good start by our man, Thyra – or by his successor as Norway’s Prime Minister. Perpetual warfare seems to have its attractions for even the nicest of people. I hope we don’t get to see NATO troops massed on the Russian border – all in the name of peace, of course… Dear me!

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