Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO since 2014, was awarded Belgium's highest honor, the Grand Cordon in the Order of Leopold, on Friday. Stoltenberg,

the second-longest-serving Secretary General in NATO's history, is nearing the end of his term, which concludes this year.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib presented Stoltenberg with the Grand Cordon, recognizing his significant contributions to NATO's mission during his tenure.

"Under your leadership, NATO expanded its membership to include Montenegro, North Macedonia, Finland, and Sweden," remarked Prime Minister De Croo, attributing their accession to the Alliance to concerns over Russia's aggressive actions in recent years.

Referring to Russia's annexation of Crimea and the subsequent turmoil in Ukraine's eastern region, De Croo highlighted the escalating tensions along NATO's eastern borders since 2014. He underscored NATO's steadfast unity in response to these challenges and emphasized the importance of supporting Ukraine with necessary military assistance.

Expressing gratitude to Stoltenberg for his leadership, De Croo commended him for leaving behind a resilient and forward-looking Alliance, equipped to address emerging security threats.

In his response, Stoltenberg lauded Belgium's longstanding commitment to NATO, recognizing its pivotal role as a founding member. He acknowledged Belgium's significant contributions to NATO's operations, including hosting the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels since 1967 and housing the SHAPE military headquarters.

The award ceremony served as a testament to the enduring partnership between NATO and Belgium, reaffirming their shared dedication to promoting peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region. Photo by Håkan Dahlström from Malmö, Sweden, Wikimedia commons.