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NATO’s Top Civilian Warns on China, Climate and Cyberhackers

Dean Emeritus Admiral James Stavridis reflects on his recent conversation with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the state and the future of NATO.

I first met Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, when he was in his previous job as prime minister of Norway and I was NATO’s supreme allied commander. A tall, engaging man who becomes very animated when he speaks informally, he sails directly at you on the issues like the prow of a Viking ship, and I liked working with him. His Norwegian military forces — whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere on NATO operations — were invariably proud, determined and utterly professional.

So I was happy to see him become secretary general in 2014, and it’s fortunate that he’s agreed to an extension at the top of the alliance until late 2022. During his time in office, the European allies and Canada have consistently increased defense spending, adding nearly $200 billion to the bottom line. While many members are still lagging in terms of meeting the shared goal of allocating 2% of gross domestic product to defense, the progress has been noteworthy and welcome in Washington.

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