U.S President Joe Biden is scheduled to host outgoing NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg at the White House for discussions on Monday, June 12, 2023, as the competition to find Stoltenberg’s successor to lead the military alliance heats up.
Stoltenberg, who has been in charge of the NATO since 2014 and has had his term extended three times, said earlier this year that he would step down at the end of September when his current term ends.
As the leaders of the 31-member military alliance prepare to convene in Vilnius, Lithuania, for their yearly summit next month, the competition to succeed him is heating up.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak argued in favor of Ben Wallace, his country’s Defense Minister, to Biden last week. Another potential candidate, Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, has also met the U.S President.
Biden declared Wallace “very qualified” when asked about the NATO position during a press conference with Sunak stood by his side. However, he said that discussions among NATO leaders to identify a “consensus” candidate to succeed Stoltenberg were still ongoing. Given that the United States spends more on defense than any other member of the alliance, Biden’s viewpoint carries a lot of weight.
After her meeting with Biden the previous week, Frederiksen tried to minimize her candidacy. She refused to clarify whether she and him talked about the upcoming vacancy, saying to reporters that she did not want to “further in these speculations about NATO.” There has never been a female Secretary-General of the alliance.
A British government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said ahead of Sunak’s visit that the British leader wants to be sure the next Secretary-General “carries on Stoltenberg’s good work of modernization but also understands the importance of defense spending at this critical time.”
Biden, Stoltenberg To Discuss Efforts To Persuade Turkey To Approve Sweden’s NATO Bid
Biden and Stoltenberg are also expected to discuss Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and efforts to persuade fellow NATO member Turkey to stop blocking Sweden from joining the military alliance.
Sweden and Finland, both historically unaligned militarily, jointly sought NATO membership after being startled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey initially blocked both countries from joining the alliance before agreeing to membership for Finland while continuing to object to Sweden.
In public comments since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reelected last month, Biden has spoken with a measure of certainty that Sweden will soon join the alliance.
“It will happen. I promise you,” Biden said of Sweden’s NATO ascension earlier this month.
Stoltenberg and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both expressed hope that Sweden will be brought into the NATO fold by the time allied leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12, 2023.