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Norway and the USA – common future?

The left side wants results. In the big questions, we must make the United States part of the solution.


By Jonas Gahr Støre

In the November 7 congressional elections, we saw American democracy in action. The election results show that the people of the United States want a changed course. Although foreign policy issues were far more prominent now than before, the big changes are hardly mentioned. But still, we can expect course adjustments when it comes to the war in Iraq and the fight against international terrorism.

Relations with the United States are central to our foreign policy. The United States is our security policy pillar, but at the same time much more than that, historically, economically, culturally and as a political player in many issues of great interest to Norway. It requires a conscious relationship with the United States.

Underestimates September 11th. We do not always understand that the United States is not an extension of Europe. The United States is a unique political force that stands for freedom and human dignity, but also the country where the death penalty is practiced in several states. This is how the United States is the land of paradoxes. It characterizes our relationship with the Americans.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 showed that even the world's most powerful state is vulnerable. In Europe, we underestimate what the attack did to the Americans. They met an enemy that is not locatable. It created a sense of war and crisis.

The United States does not necessarily see the multilateral framework as a means of meeting the new threats. If the system does not deliver then the United States will go it alone, along with those involved. From our point of view, it sometimes creates disagreement about the approach and perspective and inequality in the view of means of power.

The action of the Americansorientering and believe that problems can be solved, we can fix it – characterizes the policy. Many are critical of this power of action, although we often admire the United States for just that in other areas. But everyone who has an ambition for our world must have an ambition for the relationship with the United States. The United States' commitment is needed to find solutions, regardless of what we might otherwise think about American policy. I see it so easily, and it is so demanding to use this as a basis. It is often demanding to look at this pragmatically. Especially on the Norwegian left. I think we must overcome that. The left wants results and in the big questions we must make the United States part of the solution.

Security policy anchorage. The question is whether we see a development where the US, Europe and Norway are falling apart? I believe that what binds us together is ever stronger than what drives us apart. US Ambassador Ben Whitney pointed out in his lecture on Norwegian-American relations in the 21st century that all conditions develop and must be maintained equally. He made it clear that the United States wants to further develop close and good cooperation with Norway.

The government agrees with this. NATO membership and relations with the United States remain the mainstay of foreign and security policy. Norway will continue active cooperation with the United States to strengthen NATO cooperation and to contribute to the alliance's operations, especially in Afghanistan. We also complement each other in other areas. Norway has the resources and willingness to assist other countries in solving challenges, be it peace, development or the environment. The US recognizes this, in the phrase we often hear: Norway is punching above its weight!

Our security policy outlook has changed over the last 15 years. But everything has not changed. Norway is still next door to one of the world's great powers. Russia's path to democracy is uncertain. That is why we need our security policy anchorage.

Energy from Norway. At the same time, the perspectives in the north have changed. The region is a new energy province and a vulnerable area that requires power for the environment. We must be recognizable and predictable in the north, contribute to making this a stable and peaceful area, but also develop the vision of the Barents Sea as the sea of ​​cooperation.

Relations with Russia are the main dimension in this, but the United States is also part of the cooperation. There is growing American interest in the new dimensions of the north as the Barents Sea develops as an energy province.

Norway becomes a major supplier of oil and gas to the United States. When liquefied natural gas is delivered from the Snøhvit field to the United States, it is historic. It will be the first time the United States derives energy from our northern waters. Such ties go to the core of today's security policy.

Another issue is climate policy, the most important global issue of our time. We cannot deal with climate change without the United States, for two reasons: Because the United States accounts for around a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions and because we will not succeed without the United States mobilizing its technological creativity and ingenuity. President George W. Bush has held back. After the election, possible room for movement opens. We must seize the opportunity.

Ideological differences. A third issue of significance for Norwegian-American relations is our peace diplomacy. Norway's work is recognized by the United States, but what we do is only possible through partnerships and alliances, including with the United States.

We also cooperate well in development assistance, as in the fight against HIV / AIDS. Furthermore, the United States, together with Norway, is the most important supporter of the global vaccine alliance GAVI, which saves hundreds of thousands of children every year. The combination of Norwegian and American knowledge and commitment means that we reach much further together than each of us – despite often clear ideological differences. But we lose more than we gain by failing to take advantage of the opportunities in the collaboration.

Although Norway co-operates well with the United States, it is natural that democracies disagree. We can handle that. We do not conceal what we mean by aspects of US treatment of terrorist suspicions incompatible with the rule of law and human rights, that it is both morally wrong and weakens our legitimacy in the fight against terror. We strongly disagree with the US withholding contributions to the UN and rejecting the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. Challenges such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change and infectious diseases can only be solved through cooperation. It is therefore positive that the recognition that even the strongest is too weak alone is sinking into the United States as well. We do not know, but the election last week may be the announcement of new wins.

International issues such as the situation in Iraq had an impact on the election result, although scandals and abuses of power also upset American voters. The US political system gives the president a decisive influence in foreign policy, but I think the election results indicate that we can expect a more cooperation-oriented policy.

In order to strengthen cooperation, we must understand each other better. We have little knowledge of American everyday life and major issues in domestic politics and economics. We can do something about this, among other things through increased student exchange.

My conclusion is that we want to strengthen cooperation with our most important allies. But our understanding of being "with us rather than against us" is that we tell a friend when we disagree. It is the essence of friendship that such is tolerated. ?

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