Stoltenberg says German chancellor Merkel asked him to become NATO chief

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who convinced him to accept the alliance's top job.

In a prerecorded talk show to be aired Friday by Swedish broadcaster SVT, Stoltenberg says Merkel "was the first to talk to me (about it). And I must admit that I have a problem saying no when asked by such nice ladies."

A former Norwegian prime minister, Stoltenberg replaced Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO secretary-general last year.

Stoltenberg told the "Skavlan" talk show that cooperating with Russia is difficult when it won't respect its neighbors' borders — a reference to Moscow's intervention in Ukraine. But he said NATO members like the Baltic countries don't face the same threat because the alliance would protect them, and "all Russian leaders understand that."