Asle Toje (47) is best known to Norwegians as a conservative political commentator and academic. He was previously research director at the Norwegian Nobel Institute. In recent years, he has taken a hard line against academia, defense policy and multiculturalism. In April, he created a furore on the right by agreeing to sit on the professional council of No to Nuclear Weapons (NTA), together with eleven other professionals. Among these are Sverre Lodgaard from NUPI and Signe Flottorp from Doctors Against Nuclear Weapons.
This council is a completely new initiative on the part of NTA, and Toje says that many talented people with solid knowledge in the field are engaged here. This seemed very reassuring and made Toje want to take part in the venture. NTA has often been seen as a left-wing organization, but Toje explains that he does not consider the case an ideological matter.
"We have to turn away from the unilateral Western view of peace and cooperation."
Toje believes that the disarmament work trumps the political dividing lines. This is a task that people of good will from all sides can gather around. It also agrees with his conservative starting point: “I choose to look at disarmament work as a torch given to the next generation. Contrary to what one might find easy to think, especially in conservative circles, this is a job where people of good will from all sides can come together. "
Toje believes there is a need to create a popular commitment to nuclear weapons. In much the same way as you see in the climate issue. Therefore, the fight against nuclear weapons will not be fought by the left alone. Everyone must stand up, he believes:
- NTA needs to create interest in broad teams again. The world needs a better way to control nuclear weapons – it is not sustainable for two states to have the predominance of nuclear weapons and at the same time other states refuse to have them. This is a topic that affects everyone and should not be politically controlled. Nothing is more frightening than a new race as we saw during the Cold War.
"Our F-35s can be relatively easily equipped with enough extra sustainability to carry nuclear weapons in war."
According to Toje, it was a mistake for NTA to attach itself so closely to the left in its start-up: All sides agree that such an all-encompassing weapon cannot run free. Norway has a responsibility for, and self-interest in, that the world states work together towards a more peaceful world – therefore he is also very satisfied with sitting on the professional council at No to Nuclear Weapons, Toje explains.
- So what do you see as a practical peace policy?
- Internationally, we have to turn away from the unilateral Western view of peace and cooperation. Using a whip instead of a carrot has not worked so far. Punishment in the form of sanctions and blockades creates more tension and division in the world, not more cooperation and reconciliation. We must revive the multilateral project that Bush jr. put an end to – without this we underpin tension in the world and risk everyone's safety.
- What do you see as Norway's role in this peace project?
- Norway is a small state, with a relatively weak defense. Also, our closest neighbor and our closest ally are both nuclear states, and not very good friends. It is in our self-interest to relate to the world. We also have a responsibility to contribute to cooperation and reconciliation globally, and then we must think multilaterally and open-mindedly.
- Is Norwegian defense policy compatible with such a peace project?
- For me, the best way to ensure a free, independent and peaceful Norway is to have a strong but defensive defense. I am fundamentally opposed to interventions and have been since Iraq – an issue I was simply wrong in. It is not Norway's role to wage war on behalf of others, and to avoid becoming a piece in the US power game we have to to have a strong, conventional defense. The United States is our strongest ally, but I am very critical of much of what they do. It must be law for Norway as a state also to be critical despite our alliance through NATO.
- What are you most critical of in that sense?
- The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in NATO, which is an agreement that some countries in Europe have warplanes that have a carrying capacity for nuclear weapons. This means that these countries can use nuclear weapons in a conflict situation, and that there are combat-ready nuclear weapons in the countries. One of those countries is Germany – but the latest reports from the Bundestag on the purchase of warplanes that do not have such carrying capacity, hint that they are no longer willing to use nuclear weapons on behalf of the United States.
The fact that Norway has purchased F-35 warplanes makes us an excellent successor to Germany. Our F-35s can be relatively easily equipped with enough extra sustainability to carry nuclear weapons in war. A summit in NATO has been called for in June, and I think Norway will come under insane pressure from the Americans to take over the role of the Germans. Since there is a big difference in power in our alliance relationship with the United States, I am terrified that this could make the "peace nation" Norway become the one that allows nuclear weapons to rule the world in a conflict situation.
If Norway were to succumb to the pressure and take over Germany's role, we would also be a lot
greater goals for other states.
If Norway were to succumb to the pressure and take over Germany's role, we would also be a much bigger target for other states. We want to be a nuclear target on a par with American bases. And since our base policy is so eroded, it is not unrealistic to think that the deployment of nuclear weapons on Norwegian soil can become a reality. This is one of the most important reasons why Norway must engage in multilateral disarmament.
- How do you then react to the nuclear ban, and a possible support for Norway in the event of a change of government?
- I am not sure how likely it is that Norway will join the ban. A conservative government will probably never agree to that, but in the event of a change of government? The Labor Party has surprised us before! They got us on the cluster bomb ban, but then we had several allies with us. In the event of a nuclear ban, we will be left alone, so it is very uncertain where this will land.
But we must remember that no such prohibitions and processes are above criticism, and few of them are unconditional successes. I can not think of a single war since the cluster munitions ban where cluster munitions have not been used – and the same goes for landmines.
- What would you say to those who criticize you for having crossed the aisle in Norwegian politics?
- I would say I disagree with that. I have exactly the same views, but I believe that disarmament and peace should be lifted above party lines. Besides, I'm not affiliated with any party's policy.
I say like Ruyard Kipling: I'm everyone's friend. And politics is not important enough to become enemies over, or to control who you can be friends with. I think Sylvi Listhaug is a great person – warm and pleasant – and that Jonas Gahr Støre is a loner. When we talk together, we often come up with better solutions than when we work on each of our edges. Everyone plays their part in political life, and everyone has their blind spots, but we need all the voices and views to maintain the wonderful social democracy we have.
- Finally, is there anything you want to add?
- Yes, I would like to remind everyone that one must be careful not to be too optimistic about the nuclear ban. Disarmament is not a sudden liberating moment – it is slow and heavy work.
This is a torch we inherited from our parents, and now it's our turn. For God's sake, we must not do worse work than those who came before us. We must do it at least as well as them, and preferably do it even better.
- Thank you for taking the time to talk to us!
- One more thing – it would have been nice if you could make me appear moderately funny and knowledgeable – if possible, then!