Norwegian to take over NATO in midst of Russian crisis

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 6:18 p.m.

BRUSSELS — NATO chose former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg as its next leader on Friday at a time when the Western military alliance must deal with a resurgent Russia since its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

Stoltenberg will take over as secretary-general of the 28-nation alliance on Oct. 1, succeeding former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has led NATO since 2009.

Stoltenberg, the first Norwegian to occupy NATO's top post, will take over at a time when NATO, viewed by some as a Cold War relic, has gained new relevance because of concerns about what the Ukraine crisis says about a newly assertive Russia.

Stoltenberg, 55, said the Ukraine crisis “reminds us just how important NATO is. The idea of collective defense has become more important given how Russia is using force to change borders in Europe. Russia must see that what they've done carries a price,” he said at a news conference in Oslo.

However, he said the Ukraine crisis would not turn the clock back to the Cold War. “The current situation is not that bad,” he said.

Daniel Keohane, a defense expert at the FRIDE think tank, said Norway is considered a very serious defense player.

“(It) has always taken the challenge of Russia very, very seriously. I think there is a little bit of a signal there,” he said.

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