First it was Trump he had to tame. Now the...

BRUSSELS (Aftenposten): If Donald loses the US election in two weeks, there will still be no peace and tolerance in the world’s most powerful military alliance.

There have been many meetings between NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent years. But there has been no tea party. Photo: Kayhan Ozer / AP / NTB

Jens Stoltenberg’s term as NATO chief is coming to an end. Twice he has had his trust extended. In 2022, it’s over.

But there is nothing to suggest that Stoltenberg can cruise into the sunset.

He still has to contend with a US president on the defensive, an aggressive Russian president on the offensive and a Turkish ally who refuses to play on the team.

This week there has been a meeting of defense ministers in NATO. Then these problems came to the surface again.

It has gone from bad to worse

– I remember it very well, in early 2014, when I was first asked to become NATO Secretary General. The world was a very different place.

This is how Jens Stoltenberg opened his speech at a security conference in Bratislava two weeks ago. The speech did not make any headlines then. But Stoltenberg’s message was dramatic enough: The world has become more dangerous, more insecure and unpredictable.

The challenges have not diminished over the years as NATO Secretary General. On top of all the problems, NATO must also deal with the corona crisis. Photo: Petros Giannakouris / AP / NTB

Stoltenberg’s three difficult men

Vladimir Putin: In Stoltenberg’s speech, Russia and the country’s president got to review.

“Since then, in 2014, Russia has annexed the Crimean peninsula, increased its military presence at our borders, infiltrated elections, poisoned and attempted to assassinate political opponents and pursued massive force building in Europe,” Stoltenberg said of the growing threat from Russia.

Russia has been one of the major challenges facing NATO Secretary General.

Donald Trump: Jens Stoltenberg has spent a lot of time taming Donald Trump and smoothing over his unpredictable style and insults to state leaders.

The breakfast summit during the NATO summit in Brussels has become a star example of Trump’s unpredictability. Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / NTB

  • At the NATO summit in Brussels in the summer of 2018, Trump threatened to pull the United States out of NATO if more countries did not contribute more over defense budgets.
  • He has insulted Angela Merkel at a breakfast meeting and has bombarded the alliance with highly undiplomatic twitter messages.
  • At the NATO summit in London before Christmas in 2019, he embarrassed the queen and left the meeting before it was over.

The Turkish problem child

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: If Donald Trump were to lose the presidential election, the stage has already been set for a strong successor to Trump: Turkey’s autocratic and increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey was not on the agenda at the meeting of defense ministers, but the country’s controversial foreign policy became a topic again.

Turkey is one of the countries Jens Stoltenberg has visited most times in his time as NATO chief. The meetings with Recep Tayyip Erdogan have rarely been of those Foto: Christian Hartmann/ Reuters/ NTB

The war in Nagorno-Karabakh has flared up again this autumn. Armenia and Azerbaijan are facing each other.

  • NATO is not a party to this conflict, but the NATO country Turkey has become. Turkey is Azerbaijan’s main supporter and has also contributed weapons to the conflict.
  • Armenia’s prime minister says there is no diplomatic solution to the conflict and has asked Armenians to volunteer for the front.
  • Inside NATO, rage is rising: France accuses Azerbaijan of starting the massacre. President Emmanuel Macron accuses Turkey of contributing to a dangerous escalation.
  • Now the fear is that the Russians will end up in a military conflict with the NATO country Turkey.

The problems pile up

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is just the latest in problems Turkey is swirling up.

  • Purchases defense equipment from the enemy: Last summer, Turkey entered into an agreement with Russia to buy their S-400 air defense system. The purchase is controversial because it is not compatible and can not be used with NATO systems. But Turkey has refused to cancel the rockets and has already begun testing the equipment. The US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, believes that Turkey has crossed the “red line” by pushing through the purchase.
  • Two NATO countries threatened with war against each other: This summer, the NATO countries Greece and Turkey were on the brink of war. Then Turkey resumed exploration drilling for gas in the waters off Cyprus. An area of ​​Greece and Turkey is disputed. Stoltenberg again had to board the plane to Ankara to calm down the Turks. NATO has now put in place a military “hotline”, a direct channel between Turkey and Greece, to avoid clashes.
  • Attack on NATO supporters in Syria: It also attracted attention when Turkey in October 2019 attacked the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria. It has been instrumental in fighting IS and has been supported by NATO.
  • Turkey’s self-image: The Turks are also not known for their humility. Erdogan believes that Turkey is more important to Europe than Europe is to Turkey.

From one self-willed leader to another: Jens Stoltenberg has often been in the broker role between “strong” men, such as Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Foto: Christian Hartmann/ Reuters/ NTB

Turkish pepper

– It is true that Turkey is one of the NATO countries I have visited the most times. This reflects that the country is an important ally, Stoltenberg says diplomatically when Aftenposten asks about the frequent travel activities to Ankara.

– What is it like to have a NATO ally who is waging war against another NATO country, threatening to open borders and trigger a new migrant crisis and buying weapons systems from Russia that are not compatible with NATO systems?

– Turkey is in many difficult situations. We have expressed concern about some of the choices Turkey has made. That is why it has also been important to visit Turkey.

Patience with Turkey within the NATO family is beginning to fray. The United States and France are most critical. Foto: Yves Herman/ Reuters/ NTB

– Why does this not have any consequences for Turkey?

– NATO can not sanction individual countries. But there is disagreement within the alliance about how to deal with Turkey, says Stoltenberg.

– But one must not forget that Turkey has also contributed constructively in the fight against terrorism. They are also one of the largest contributors to our training operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. And Turkey has made important civilian contributions in the corona crisis, says Jens Stoltenberg.

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