White House welcomes new NATO secretary-general

The White House issued a statement Friday welcoming the selection of former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg as NATO’s next secretary-general.

Stoltenberg is slated to take the position on Oct. 1, 2014.

“As Prime Minister, he built Norway’s military capabilities and actively contributed to NATO operations and political dialogue,” the statement by White House press secretary Jay Carney said of Stoltenberg.

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“We are confident he is the best person to ensure the continued strength and unity of the NATO alliance," it said. 

The White House also thanked the outgoing secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will be serving through a NATO summit in South Wales in September.

Rasmussen, a former prime minister of Denmark, became the NATO secretary-general in August 2009, and presided during the alliance’s surge and drawdown in the Afghan War and intervention in Libya. 

“Secretary General Rasmussen has been an exceptional leader at an extraordinary time,” the White House statement said.

“His vision and dedication have strengthened the Alliance’s strategic direction and focus on ways to bolster defense capabilities while reinforcing the commitments and values underpinning it,” it said. 

“From preparing for NATO’s transition in Afghanistan, to seeing us through the intervention in Libya, and – now – to providing strong leadership in the face of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, Secretary General Rasmussen has been a steadfast partner and a trusted friend of the United States throughout his tenure.  We know that Mr. Stoltenberg will prove the same,” it said. 

The selection comes as the alliance of 28 North American and European countries is facing a challenge from Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, which the U.S. and its Western allies say violates international law.

Russian forces are massing at the eastern and southern borders of Ukraine. Russia’s defense minister told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel the forces are there for exercises only, but Pentagon officials say they are concerned about further aggressive moves by Russia.