Photo credit © NATO

The new Norwegian Sec Gen of NATO has wasted little time in putting a face on the defense of NATO.

He has underscored that the Alliance is about defending the territory of all of its members.

The background of the new Sec Gen was highlighted in September 30, 2014 BBC story as follows:

Nato’s 13th secretary general, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, looks an unlikely choice on several counts: an economist with no defence background, a social democrat who built up good relations with Russia, another Scandinavian hard on the heels of Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Actually, the veteran social democrat presents a sharp contrast to his predecessor, the conservative former prime minister of Denmark, who could come over as strident and uncompromising about Russia.

There is likely to be concern among some east Europeans that he may be too accommodating towards Russia in the crisis over Ukraine.

Yet those fears may be premature.

He is a politician who will deal flexibly with facts on the ground, whether it is Nato’s withdrawal from Afghanistan or conflict in eastern Europe, Harald Stanghelle, a leading Norwegian journalist, told BBC News.

Intriguingly, Mr Stoltenberg is also German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s choice to lead the alliance, often regarded as the main instrument for keeping America in Europe.

The first travels of the new Sec Gen seem to demonstrate his clear concern about the direct defense of NATO against the old and new threats facing the alliance.

He took little time to make a trip to Poland and to meet with the Polish Minister of Defense.

According to a NATO article:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that NATO would defend every Ally on a visit to Poland on Monday (6 October 2014). “NATO’s most important task is to protect and defend our nations against attack. We will defend our Allies, all Allies”, Mr Stoltenberg said after meetings with Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz in Warsaw.

International security challenges including Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, progress in implementing the decisions taken at the NATO Summit in Wales, and preparations for the 2016 Summit in Poland were the main themes during the talks. The Secretary General expressed his commitment to implementing the Wales Summit decisions in full. He stressed that the steps being taken by NATO to reinforce collective defence are fully in line with NATO’s international commitments.

Mr Stoltenberg praised Poland for its significant contribution to the Alliance’s operations and its commitment to strong defence: “Polish troops serve with great distinction in Afghanistan, and in Kosovo.  You are a key contributor to our Missile Defence system. Soon, Poland will spend 2% of its Gross Domestic Product on defence. And you are making the right decisions to invest in new equipment and capabilities”.

Mr Stoltenberg also held talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Tomasz Siemoniak, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Grzegorz Schetyna, before heading to Łask Air Base to meet with air force personnel from Poland and other Allied countries. The visit to Poland is NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s first official country visit since taking up his post as earlier this month.

And according to the Polish Foreign Ministry:

“It is really symbolic and important that NATO’s new Secretary General pays his first foreign visit to Poland,” underscored Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna on welcoming Jens Stoltenberg. Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak also took part in the talks. The discussion centred on the situation in the region, including in the context of the security crises in Ukraine and in Europe’s southern neighbourhood, especially activities of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq. Another topic was the Alliance’s cooperation with Afghanistan after the conclusion of the ISAF operation.

Much attention was also devoted to the next NATO summit which will take place in Warsaw in two years’ time. “We want it to end the two-year work on implementing the arrangements made in Newport,” said Minister Schetyna. It was emphasized that the event will be held in a city that back in 1955 saw the establishment of the Warsaw Pact, NATO’s principal opponent for many decades.

While in Warsaw, Jens Stoltenberg, who assumed his office on 1 October, also met with President Bronisław Komorowski and Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz. After the talks in Poland’s capital city, he visited the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Lask. At the military airport, he met with Air Force commanders and pilots who take part in the Baltic Air Policing mission over the Baltic States, and see service in Poland as part of the aviation detachment.

Next up was a visit to Turkey by the Sec Gen.

According to a Euro News piece about the visit published on 10/6/14:

The NATO military alliance will stand by Turkey if it proves necessary to protect the country from attacks by the group calling itself Islamic State (ISIL), NATO Secetary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.

This comes as ISIL militants raised their flag on a building on the outskirts of the Syrian border town of Kobani, just one kilometre away from Turkish territory.

“Turkey should know that NATO will be there if there is any spillover, any attacks on Turkey as a consequence of the violence we see in Syria,” said Stoltenberg.

Kobani’s Kurdish defenders said ISIL fighters had not reached the city centre.

A black ISIL flag was visible from across the Turkish border, close to some of the most intense clashes in recent days.

“ISIL have only planted a flag on one building on the eastern side of town,” said Ismail Eskin, a journalist in the town. “That is not inside the city, it’s on the eastern side. They are not inside the city. Intense clashes are continuing.”

According to the Turkish based Hürriyet Daily News in an article written by Sevil Erkuş:

Ankara has asked NATO to put the issue of a safe haven and no-fly zone in Syria on its agenda, diplomatic sources have told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu requested that the issue be discussed among allies during a meeting Oct. 9 with new NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who has been in talks with Turkish leaders. Stoltenberg is on his first visit to Turkey since assuming his new post earlier this month.

Ankara also plans to introduce the proposal in Brussels through Turkey’s permanent representative.

Asked about Turkey’s proposal for a safe haven and no-fly zone into Syria, Stoltenberg said the issue had yet to be discussed in NATO.

“We discussed this issue today during our meeting here. I believe there is no simple and straightforward way out of the problems we are seeing in Syria around Kobane these days. It has not been on the table in any NATO discussions yet; it is not an issue which has been discussed in NATO,” he said in a press conference after his meeting with Çavuşoğlu.

“I welcome decisive actions from several countries in the international effort fight against ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] by air strikes. I also welcome what Turkey has been doing in receiving refugees, and also the decision by the Turkish Parliament to authorize Turkey to take an even more active role,” Stoltenberg added.

“Our Patriot deployment reinforces Turkey’s air defense. NATO stands ready to support all allies in defending their security,” he said.

Turkey cannot be expected to take action for a ground operation against jihadists on its own, Çavuşoğlu said, noting that the world needed to focus on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as fighting the jihadists.

“It’s not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own,” the foreign minister stated.

Çavusoglu said true peace could never be restored in Syria without the departure of “al-Assad and his regime.”

He said the current U.S.-led air strikes against jihadists would not be enough to bring peace to Syria and a ground operation in coordination with anti-ISIL Syrian rebels should be considered.

“Air strikes could reverse the balance of power and stop ISIL, but will not be enough to clear the region of ISIL,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“Therefore all other options, including a ground operation, should be considered and the Free Syrian Army should be supported,” he said, referring to the beleaguered anti-al-Assad rebel force.

The new Sec Gen should be applauded for showing up at the “front line” of NATO so to speak,, but ensuring that realities meet words will be the challenge, notably with Putin and ISIL engaging and actively reshaping the strategic environment without and without NATO.