Speaking in the Oslo Military Society – and this is my first time here – provides a good opportunity for me to trace some long lines.
I will begin with a central feature of Norway’s foreign policy, a relationship with another country that has been of great importance to Norway throughout history, and that will continue to be in future.
A relationship that constitutes a cornerstone of our defence and security policy, but also much more than that; a relationship that involves our history, our values, our family ties, our culture, our education and research cooperation, our business sector, our trade, our technology – in fact, most parts of our society. Then and now. From the Eidsvoll constitution to today’s internet.
I want to speak to you this evening about our relationship with the United States, and particularly about our views on American foreign policy.
This may be somewhat more narrower than suggested by the original title of this evening’s lecture that was on the invitations sent out a few weeks ago. But the fact that a discussion of our relationship with the US also opens the door for discussion of all aspects of foreign and security policy reflects the position of the US in today’s world.
Let us begin by looking at the picture we have of America, because we cannot use a dry country analysis to examine this relationship.
We have a dream about America, we have an image – many images – of America.
We are enthusiastic about America and all things American, about the culture, the vitality and the innovative spirit that took mankind to the moon, a project that in its design and implementation was the real thing, was Born in the USA.
We also have the other phenomenon – anti-Americanism – in Norway as elsewhere in Western Europe, which developed in tandem with the Vietnam War and the youth rebellion against the authoritarian social order in the US and many European countries in the 1960s. We Who Loved America was the title of Jens Bjørneboe’s book of that era, in which he ironically observed “that the relationship between Norway and the US is the story of an endless embrace”.
Or the writer Dag Solstad, who today maintains that he is completely and unequivocally anti-American. Or Fear of America, which is the title of a book by Stian Bromark and Dag Herbjørnsrud.
We all have our personal ties to the US. I feel a closeness and a kinship with the US because earlier generations of my family moved there in search of a better life on the other side of the Atlantic.
I don’t know their present-day descendants. But nonetheless there are family ties, personal ties, but perhaps first and foremost cultural ones. And there is the way I feel when I return from a visit to the US – that feeling of having been thoroughly stimulated, motivated, involved – and provoked.
And so we have the paradox: Those who left more than 100 years ago did not just leave for a new country, they left their country of birth in more ways than one. Historians remind us of precisely this – that many left because they wanted to get away from Europe.
The first European emigrants were looking for religious and economic freedom. The old, rigid, authoritarian and hierarchical Europe burdened, weighed down, indeed, oppressed its new generations. They left, not only because many were suffering want and poverty, but also because they wanted to get away from the old continent, from what they perceived as being limitations, bureaucracy and, sometimes, persecution.
When we look at the nineteenth century, most American presidents had modest backgrounds, while we in Europe had emperors, royalty, and aristocracy. Just take Abraham Lincoln.
I mention this to underscore that this is why we Europeans often find it to difficult comprehend that the US is not an extension of Europe. Part of what is somewhat vaguely termed “the West”, yes, but not Europe. A country with more possibilities than Europe, a country where boundaries could still be moved in the pursuit of progress.
And let me mention another fundamental difference between Europe and the US – let us look briefly at their respective populations:
Population figures in Europe are stagnating while we are striving to integrate and include immigrants.
On Tuesday of last week, at 08.07 US time to be exact, the US population officially passed the 300 million mark. The US population has grown by 100 million in 40 years. Just stop and think about it: In a little less than my lifetime, the population of the US has grown by what is roughly equivalent to the populations of France and the United Kingdom combined.
The US continues to attract people from all over the world; people of all social strata, ethnic groups and religions live side-by-side in this huge country. A tolerant society and melting pot we Europeans have never fully comprehended. Anyone can become an American, regardless of ethnic origin.
This superpower US, which has such creative and dynamic power, where senators and pundits stand up to each other, where so many have the courage of their convictions, where so many are wealthy, but also where so many are poor; a country that spends more on health care per capita than any other country, but where tens of millions have no health insurance. A country that more than any other has epitomised freedom and human rights, but that at the same time practises the death penalty in many of its states.
Outwardly, the US seems unparalleled in terms of influence, certitude and self-confidence, but inwardly it is much more reflective and questioning, almost insecure – and not least complex. With its wide-ranging social debate, with its global, competing news media.
And our impressions of the US are also influenced by the more superficial reality presented by the media. McDonalds, American Psycho, Hollywood, Eminem, hurricanes, space shuttles and astronauts. Names, phenomena, trademarks, symbols. Caricatures. All this creates images of the US.
When describing Norway’s relationship with the US, we often start by referring to the great Norwegian emigration, to our shared belief in freedom – including religious freedom – in democracy and human dignity, and in our joint fight against Nazism and Communism in the previous century.
History is important. But for Norwegians today, and particularly the younger generation, our common historical heritage and all points of reference from the 1940s, 50s and 60s are fading into the background. Roosevelt’s Look to Norway, the Marshall Plan, Martin Luther King’s I have a dream from 1963, and the shots in Dallas later that year – these are no longer the present for many generations.
The generation that struggled ashore at Omaha and Utah Beaches on D-Day in June 1944 – indeed many are here this evening – and that fought side-by-side against oppression and dictatorship in Europe, is no longer setting the agenda in the same way. How does this affect our image of each other?
With the passage of time, the foreign and security policy views of the US and Europe have changed. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union removed the direct military threat against Europe posed by the Cold War. This gave our continent new opportunities for consolidation and growth, new focuses, and completely new perspectives on our neighbouring areas, particularly in our own neighbouring areas in the north – the High North.
During the Cold War, Norway shared a border with another superpower – a common enemy – the Soviet Union. The defence of Norwegian territory and NATO’s northern flank was not only a Norwegian foreign and security policy priority, but also of direct and vital interest to the US.
Here East met West, the Warsaw Pact met NATO, at our border.
And then the picture changed, and the world view was adjusted.
The Cold War’s front line is history. But the whole picture does not necessarily change. Norway still has one of the world’s greatest military powers as its neighbour.
There is continued uncertainty about Russia’s progress towards a democratic society. Not only uncertainty, but also disquiet. A disquiet that is not eased by uncertainty about the status of fundamental human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression, and about the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
But our relationship with Russia has nevertheless changed.
Fortunately, Norway is not directly threatened by any superpower today. And America no longer considers our territory and neighbouring areas to be as important as it once did. Washington D.C.’s list of concerns focuses on areas far from the coast of the Barents Sea.
Then, five years ago, a new dramatic event: 9/11.
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. revealed the extreme vulnerability of the world’s mightiest nation when confronted by the new international threats and fears.
What did 9/11 do to American policy, to the American mentality and the American world view, and how does this contrast with the European and Norwegian mentality, world view and patterns of response?
I am certain – indeed my conversations with American friends and colleagues have convinced me that we in Norway and Europe continue to underestimate the deep impression 9/11 made on the Americans. Attacked for the first time on home soil, right in the heart of the nation. By an enemy that is difficult to define, difficult to locate, and so elusive that it is impossible to say whether it has been defeated.
The US has considered itself to be at war since September 11, 2001 – we have to remember this. The events of that day ushered in a new emphasis, a new polarisation, a new vigilance. The acts of terror created a state of war. The US President reiterates it in almost all of his speeches – we are a nation at war.
It is not easy to criticise, or to be in dialogue, with people who believe that they are at war, whose world view is shaped by the conviction that either you are with us or you are against us.
This is rhetoric we are not accustomed to using. The picture has no nuances, there is no middle ground. As some say, there is no longer any fence to sit on, you have to choose one side or the other.
But does this give an accurate picture of today’s world?
And is it a road map for meeting the complex problems the world is facing?
At the same time, it was clear from the outset that we were all affected by this unfathomable deed, that we would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the US, and that we – the Western nations – were entering an era with a new set of threats. As the German Chancellor put it, today we are all Americans, re-phrasing the magical words spoken by President Kennedy on 26 June 1961 – Ich bin ein Berliner.
The terror that struck the US has also struck Madrid, London, Bali and other places, and no one can guarantee that it won’t strike us.
This is therefore a threat that adds a new dimension to the close security partnership between us and the US.
However, the war on terror does not bind us together in the same way that the Cold War did. We are having more fundamental discussions about strategy and the means to be used.
What is the best means of fighting terror? And what values should govern this fight?
While the US has adopted a global perspective, many countries in Europe are focusing inward, on their own continent, on Europe itself and our continental landmass, our own neighbouring areas, to the east, the north and the south. The economy, migration, energy, democracy, civil rights, energy security, the EU constitution.
The EU is enlarging towards the east, and NATO is enlarging towards the east. A large-scale project to include virtually all of the countries of the former Eastern bloc in the European family is under way. Indeed, today I met my Croatian colleague, and we discussed this. Pressure is high, the agenda is long, the expectations – not least from the east – are great.
At the same time, the US is focusing outward in its defensive war on terror, a defensive war that is based on Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. It was invoked for the first time, not to counter an attack on Western Europe, but to show solidarity with the US after it was attacked, and to acknowledge that the US had a right to self-defence. In the months that followed came the showdown with the Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and the Taliban regime there.
And then the war in Iraq and the coalition of the willing, which challenged the established multilateral framework. This change in American foreign policy orientation is important for all of the US’s friends, partners and allies, including Norway.
We need to reflect on this: The foundations of the international order we support were laid with the US as the leading architect.
Norway has a particular interest in the framework promoted by the US after World War II – Bretton Woods, the World Bank, GATT, the WTO, the UN, NATO.
But US interests are changing. The international framework has less direct relevance for the US. It counts for less when weighed against American interests. In recent years, the US has asserted more strongly that, if the multilateral system does not deliver what the US wants, it will consider going it alone, with those who are willing to come along – the willing.
We see this in relation to the major new challenges of our time – how are we going to address them?
The European approach is often characterised by process and dialogue, and compromises we can live with, whereas the American approach is more action-orientated, resolute, and shaped by the belief that problems can be solved more quickly, even in a more global perspective.
Here the feeling of distance across the Atlantic has to do with divergent approaches, perspectives, and differences in terms of access to resources.
Let us reflect on this: What we see here in the foreign policy – and what we may be sceptical, even critical about – is the same dynamism that we often admire the US for in other spheres of society: in technology, research and business development. The ability to act, the strength to carry on.
But in international politics, the differences in attitude between the US and Europe sometimes prompt the question whether the distance between us is growing.
Are we really in a situation where the US, Europe and Norway are moving away from one another? Are there fundamental differences between our societies that pull in different directions and that are merely reinforced by globalisation?
As we have been hearing for many years, demographic trends in the US show a shift of the political centre of gravity to the west and south. The East Coast, traditionally closer to Europe culturally, is relinquishing some of its influence.
At the same time, the US is closer than ever before, thanks to the media, culture, technology and the internet. We are large-scale consumers of American culture. And this indicates that what the US has to offer seems relevant to us, it is something we want.
I believe that what binds us together is still stronger than what drives us apart. But it is our common will that will be decisive. This is largely a matter of the will and ability of democracies to choose. The ability to renew and update established common interests, and the ability to create new ones.
This in turn requires honesty about our differences and differing interests. It requires a focus on what binds us together.
Consider this statistic: every day some 120 000 passenger fly across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the US or vice versa. Forty-five million passengers a year.
Changed ties are not necessarily weakened ties. Probably the most dangerous ties of all are those that have become rigid: holding on at all costs to systems established at an earlier point in time, losing the ability to see that the world has changed and is making new demands, losing the ability to talk to each other and share our analyses, losing the ability to build common interests in new areas.
The American Ambassador to Norway, Ben Whitney, held an interesting lecture at the Nobel Institute some months ago on the Norwegian-American relationship in the 21st century.
Ambassador Whitney has, with an energy that we recognise in Americans at their very best, in a short time gained deep insight into Norway and the Norwegian-American relationship. He emphasised that all relationships develop over time, and that they have to be tended carefully in order to be maintained.
I agree completely. He is of the opinion, and so am I, that countries need to take stock at regular intervals of their international relations in the light of new circumstances and their national interests. And he made it very clear that the US wants to maintain and strengthen its close, strong partnership with Norway.
This is a good invitation. The Government would like to make this very clear: Our relationship with the US is vital to Norway. We view our NATO membership and our relations with the US as a mainstay of our foreign and security policy. We see opportunities and exciting tasks in our bilateral relations.
And not least, we see great potential for complementing each other. Norway is smaller than the US, yes, but we are not without resources, we are not without experience, and we are not unwilling to assist other countries in meeting their challenges, whether related to peace, development or the environment. The US recognises this, and often sums it up with the words: Norway is punching above its weight – which we Norwegians have no objection to.
And now to what is most important. Making sure that we’re moving in the right direction, whether in relation to climate, disarmament or the fight against poverty, terrorism and international crime – and much more – all of this requires the best of the US.
Everyone who have ambitions for our world must have an ambition for our relations with the US, and an ambition for the US’s own involvement, regardless of what we may think about American policy under any particular president.
Can you think of a single important political issue in our world in which the US does not have to be part of the solution? I can’t.
As we look ahead, let us begin with our neighbouring areas – the High North – which have been discussed so often in this forum.
We are familiar with the past, with the Cold War, during which the High North was associated with tension, suspicion and fear. Norway was a frontline state in a conflict that was both ideological and geopolitical. The US was present in the north to counterbalance the Soviet military force buildup, and as a guarantor of the security of Norway and Western Europe.
Today, the perspectives have changed. Whereas the military-strategic balance of forces previously overshadowed practically all other dimensions, new opportunities have opened up.
The region is now attracting attention because of other factors: It is a new European energy province, a vulnerable area that requires new concerted efforts to cooperate on the environment, a region where the effects of climate change are making an impression on everyone, from Senators McCain and Clinton, who visited Svalbard in 2004, to a long list of international experts and politicians.
We are dealing with some of these challenges together, such as handling nuclear waste from the decommissioned submarines of the Northern Fleet, which is also a challenge from a disarmament and non-proliferation perspective.
The US has become involved, and so the two former superpower rivals have joined forces with Norway to solve the nuclear waste problems in northwestern Russia.
I have noted that the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, a true pioneer in the field of disarmament, has a map in his office where he puts an X for every submarine or missile that has been properly dismantled. I like that. Many of the X’s are in Murmansk. We have financed the dismantling of three of the submarines, and a fourth will soon be completed.
So Norway will continue to develop and promote the image we have established in the north: We will be recognisable and predictable. We will help to maintain peace and stability in the area. We have a great responsibility as a coastal nation, and we are developing the concept of the Barents Sea as a sea of cooperation.
One of the main factors will be the development of our relations with our neighbour Russia, with all of the challenges and opportunities that this entails.
The US also has a role to play in this cooperation. Our ties to the US, and the alliance we are a part of, continue to have great importance in a classical security police perspective, including in relation to the High North. These ties are an important part of the balance Norway must seek in order to secure stability in the north, including in relation to our neighbour Russia.
Today, stability is less dependent on the military dimension. But it is very closely linked to political and strategic factors.
We now discern a steadily increasing US interest in the new dimensions in the north. We also need to be aware that the Americans define their interests in a different way. At present, there are no vital American interests at stake, but there may be important opportunities there.
When the Barents Sea is developed as an energy province, the region will take on a new strategic dimension. We have not yet seen the end of the Stockman story. But we have heard that Russia suddenly announced in a press release earlier this month that the original plan to transport gas from this gigantic field westwards to the US has now been replaced by a new plan to transport it southwards, to Europe.
Energy has thus become a key dimension in the new security policy. And I predict that it will become an important new dimension in the relationship between Norway and the US.
We aren’t starting from scratch here. Remember that the development of the petroleum resources on the Norwegian continental shelf began with American companies and American technology. The Americans were instrumental in developing what proved to be a highly competent and competitive oil and gas sector.
Today, technology is being transferred in both directions. American companies continue to be active in Norway and, in the past few years, Norwegian companies have become increasingly active and successful in the US.
In addition, Norway is a significant supplier of oil and, more recently, gas to the US. The value of our petroleum exports is almost NOK 30 billion a year.
When the first liquefied natural gas – LNG – is delivered to the Cove Point terminal in Maryland from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea approximately a year from now, history will be made in more than one sense. It will be the result of an incredible technological effort, and will be the first example of energy being transported to the US from our part of the world – from our northernmost waters.
It is ties such as these that lie at the heart of the security policy of our time.
Let us move on – to what has formed the basis of the relations between our two countries throughout the post-war period: our extensive security and defence policy cooperation through NATO.
NATO is the mainstay of Norway’s defence, and Norway will continue its active commitment to strengthen the alliance. We will do so by supporting the political cooperation in NATO and through our contribution to its operations. This is – and will continue to be – extensive.
In recent years, NATO has undergone significant changes: in the number of members and in its focus. Today it is a broad security policy organisation and alliance that binds the US and Europe together in a new and more sophisticated way. Indeed, many would say that NATO today is hardly recognisable from the NATO we knew even in the 1990s.
These changes are particularly apparent in the fact that today NATO’s largest operation by far is its efforts to provide security for Afghanistan, so that the country can be successful in its own development.
Norway stands together with the US and all the other allies in the conviction that Afghanistan must be NATO’s main focus in the time to come.
The NATO-led security assistance force ISAF is in many ways representative of the new NATO – an alliance that cooperates with new partners and takes on new tasks.
Norway is providing 550 personnel in Afghanistan. We have increased our participation by over 150 personnel this past year. There is hardly any country that contributes more in terms of personnel per capita.
Our most important task today is to consolidate this presence and to do the job we are set to do. We are therefore following the situation closely.
I have noticed that the concept of “contribution per capita” has caused some amusement in the Norwegian press. However I believe it is relevant in the overall picture of how the burden is shared in the international community. I see a connection between Norway’s efforts to promote peace and its efforts to foster development and safeguard the environment. We are engaged in development cooperation, in international cooperation forums, in humanitarian efforts – and in efforts involving military forces.
We are contributing according to our ability in a way that – in total – enables us to hold our head high in relation to our partners in NATO and the EU.
We take our commitments as a member of a defence alliance very seriously. I am therefore glad that we are making a good contribution not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of quality. Our forces have gained an excellent reputation, including in the Pentagon and elsewhere where stock is taken of such matters. Norwegian soldiers win recognition for their efforts in international operations. They are well trained, highly educated and have a good command of foreign languages.
They – and we – can be proud of this. And this is another reason why we can hold our head high when Norway’s international efforts are assessed. And this will continue to be the case, for this is the way we want it to be in Norway.
NATO is at the centre of our partnership with the US in the foreign and security policy areas.
But there are other perspectives. The efforts to promote peace and development involve more than this.
Indeed, even NATO is about more than this today. The NATO debate in Norway is often about the NATO of yesterday.
NATO is in Afghanistan to carry out a military task. But that alone will not solve Afghanistan’s problems. As a NATO country, we are facing a new challenge as we see that developments are not going in the right direction, instability is increasing – in pace with the increasing number of troops – and the Taliban, which had almost been disbanded a few years ago, is gaining new sustenance and support among this war-weary population. Now we see that recruitment is increasing in step with growing hostilities and a rising number of civilian casualties.
NATO as an organisation – and we as a NATO member country – must become engaged in a quite different way and must ensure that the international community does what is needed to secure Afghanistan’s development.
Afghanistan is important for NATO, in military terms, in civilian terms and in terms of the whole picture – the interplay between military and civilian efforts. This is a question of NATO’s future, and a question of Afghanistan’s development, reconstruction and security; it is also a question of our own security.
We must find a new way of coordinating assistance, we must work closely with donor countries, with international organisations such as the UN, the EU and the World Bank and several hundred non-governmental organisations – in other words with a wide range of channels.
This is the most dramatic aspect of Afghanistan today. And it is a challenge we will not solve with more troops.
If we are to help Afghanistan onto the right track, we have to make a qualitatively new joint effort, in which the whole of the international community is involved and takes part. More and more people are seeing this. And those who are seeing this most clearly – and are saying so – are the military.
Let us move on. Our experience of peace diplomacy is also very important for the Norwegian-American ties. This diplomacy is well known – also in the US – and is one of the main tracks in the Government’s foreign policy, another main track of which is our aim to be a friend to our friends.
Let us remember one thing: what Norway is able to achieve on the occasions when we operate on our own in peace processes is only possible thanks to our international cooperation efforts, our partnerships, our friendships and alliances, not least with the US.
We do have certain advantages: We are not part of the power blocs in international politics; we do not have a colonial past; and we do not have a reputation for having a hidden agenda. In addition there is a high degree of continuity in Norway’s efforts regardless of changing governments and parliamentary majorities.
But Norway’s role as facilitator and mediator is often supplemented by support from others who have more to offer in terms of economic resources and political influence.
This was the case in the Oslo peace process for the Middle East. This is also the case with the co-chair group through which the US is contributing to the peace process in Sri Lanka. Norway, the US and the UK formed a troika to support IGAD’s peace efforts in Southern Sudan. And we are again working together with the US in the international contact group for Somalia. Just to take four examples where we are developing new and important channels together with the US.
There are some fundamental differences in our approaches to international development cooperation. Norway’s contribution to ODA is close to 1 per cent of our GNI; the US contribution is around 0.22 per cent of its GNI. We think this is too low –and we are frank about it.
But let us not forget that the US is the world’s largest contributor of emergency relief and other humanitarian assistance. This is not equally well known everywhere in Norway. It is also a fact that Norway cooperates closely and well with the American authorities and with American non-governmental organisations within many areas of development cooperation.
Take health for example – a field I have some experience of. We cooperate closely in the fight against HIV/AIDS, in which the US is by far the world’s largest economic contributor. This goes well, even though we do not agree on all the strategies for preventing the disease. The US is also – together with Norway – a major supporter of the global vaccination alliance GAVI, which saves the lives of several hundred thousand children every year.
The combination of Norwegian and American knowledge, experience, commitment and political will, and our determination to back up our policies with the necessary funding – all this enables us to achieve much more than we could have done by ourselves.
This gets noticed. We persuade others to join in.
And this holds – I believe – an exciting potential for our cooperation in the years ahead.
We can sum up as follows: Norway has good, close cooperation with the US. We have many points of contact and meeting places, and even more important – we share the same values. We have regular political consultations and a good dialogue covering a broad range of issues, and these continue even though presidents, governments and political majorities change.
But a natural part of living in a democracy is that people can disagree, and they can find ways of dealing with their disagreements. And this is also how it should be between democracies. We disagree with the US on several issues. And we must be able to speak out clearly on these issues as well as the ones we agree on.
This is a consequence of the key role the US plays in the international community. Everyone has an opinion about the US. These opinions vary from the thoughtful and reflected to the superficial, and some are based on incorrect facts. But what we do see is that these opinions are becoming stronger. Many people are involved in these issues. And many of the questions people are asking go straight to the core of our common values.
One such question relates to the UN and international law.
People – particularly young people whom I meet when I speak at schools and universities – are asking:
How can it be that the US – which was the driving force behind the establishment of the UN, and one of the strongest advocates of binding international cooperation – is now so critical of the UN?
Key issues here are the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and the developments after the invasion. Just follow the debate in the US – it says it all.
Another key issue is the US withholding its assessed contribution to the UN. Yet another is the refusal of the US to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and recognise the International Criminal Court.
And many are asking: How can the US expect other states to respect and comply with the UN’s recommendations when the most powerful country in the UN has such strong reservations about doing so itself?
These questions are real and tend to lead to oversimplification.
The US plays an active role in the UN, and demonstrates daily that it values the organisation. And the US – as the superpower it is – has a great deal of influence, including in the UN. We must distinguish between fighting for a country’s own interests in the UN and working against the organisation. We must distinguish between having different interpretations of international law and attempting to undermine it. For this is not always done in the debate.
However, there’s no denying that many – including in Norway – feel that the US has, both in word and deed, developed a new, more reserved attitude to binding international cooperation.
And there’s no denying that Norway – due to its size and a number of other factors – does have a different relationship with the UN that the US has.
For example, in the WTO we share the goal of achieving a new agreement. But here we meet the US as negotiating partner, and we have fundamentally different views in the agricultural area. The US is fighting for its interests, and so is Norway. It is a question of their interests and our interests – that’s the way it is. The US is a formidable adversary in any negotiating situation. But we cannot allow this to affect Norwegian-American bilateral relations.
Many of the problems we are facing are global ones and can only be solved through international cooperation, within a multilateral framework.
But even the strongest are not strong enough to go it alone. There is growing recognition of this in the US debate. There is a sense of vulnerability and at times of powerlessness in the face of some of the most serious problems.
These cannot be solved at regional level or through various forms of ad hoc coalitions of the willing. The use of military force is extremely demanding and risky. Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change and infectious diseases can only be combated through close cooperation – through genuine and mutual cooperation.
And each time we fail to utilise our common global instruments we weaken them. And then we are less well equipped the next time around.
A little more than a week ago, I visited Romerike Folk High School, where we discussed the Middle East – the conflict and the whole issue of international terrorism. One of the young students asked the following question: Can we win the fight against terrorism by violating human rights?
No, I don’t think so. We cannot win the fight against terrorism by violating human rights. At any rate democracies can’t.
Terrorism can never be tolerated or condoned. It must be prevented and combated, including by the use of force where necessary. The US has taken on this fight, and Norway is standing by its side. The US has been struck by terrorism and has the right to defend itself.
But the fight against terrorism is fundamentally about values, and it is a fight against the social conditions that nurture terrorism. And we will only win if we fight in accordance with the principles of the rule of law and universal human rights.
Norway has made no attempt to hide our views on the aspects of the US treatment of terrorism suspects that we consider to be incompatible with fundamental principles of the rule of law and human rights, the Geneva Convention. – On the treatment of prisoners not only in Guantanamo, but also elsewhere.
One thing is certain: All people – including terrorism suspects – are entitled to protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
No one is outside the law and no one is above it.
Anything else would be morally wrong and would undermine our legitimacy in the joint fight against terrorism.
These ideas are not absent from the American debate. Nowhere else is the open debate on torture, the treatment of prisoners and human rights more heated than in the US. Indeed much of the harshest criticism the Administration has had to take in this area has come from Republican spokespersons.
Senator McCain wants an end to torture and what are known as “aggressive interrogations”. He has experienced these himself – in Vietnam.
The Financial Times recently published an editorial with the heading “Torture breeds terror”. And President Bush said in his Rose Garden press conference on 11 October this year: “... there are some things that I wish had happened differently – Abu Ghraib. I believe that really hurt us. It hurt us internationally.”
So we see that there are different approaches to the diplomacy needed both in the fight against terrorism and in the efforts to bring about peace. One school of thought in the US – often presented as the neo-conservative view – has pushed for a more uncompromising approach to regimes the US regards as its adversaries. This whole way of thinking came strongly to the fore after 9/11 and fitted in well with the fight-against-terrorism perspective.
The assertion “either you are for us or you are against us” set the agenda for what was to follow, and the list of countries and organisations that fall under the latter category is getting long. This has led to a rhetoric of confrontation – against terrorists and against Islamists, who are called “the new fascists”.
The US has stood up against formidable adversaries through history. But its greatest and finest victories since World War II have been won through a combination of resoluteness – including the will and ability to deploy, and if necessary use, military capability – and diplomacy. These victories include the development of relations with China and the historic disarmament agreements with the Soviet Union. Just to mention the two most important examples.
And it is the power of diplomacy, its creativity, its ability to build communities of interest, that our world so sorely needs. The ability of the US to engage has been its most powerful diplomatic weapon.
Now the world needs the US to play this role more actively.
The world needs the US to be prepared to engage directly with those they perceive as their adversaries – whether they are countries such as Syria, Iran or North Korea, or movements such as Hamas or Hezbollah – and to demonstrate that there is another way forward.
The world needs the US to apply what it does so well at home – the integration of a wide range of cultures in a great shared sense of identity – to the international community.
Resoluteness and zero tolerance for the atrocities of terrorism are necessary. But isolation and exclusion tend to foster greater radicalisation and extremism.
I would like to take another leap before I go in for a landing: In a few days’ time, Norway will take over the chair of the Arctic Council, an organisation where climate change is and will continue to be at the top of the agenda.
And climate change is the most important global issue of our time – the survival issue of our century. The scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming is clear. It constitutes – as Al Gore puts it – An Inconvenient Truth.
But to be brief: the world will not be able to deal with climate change without the US. For two reasons.
Firstly, the US is responsible for about a quarter of total emissions of greenhouse gases.
But perhaps even more importantly, we cannot succeed unless the US mobilises its enormous potential for technological creativity, its energy and inventiveness.
Condoleezza Rice told me that the US could not ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it would cost around 3 per cent of the country’s GDP. This cannot be the end of the story.
The US set its sights on the moon – and reached it. The US was the leading force in ending two world wars and was successful.
Besides, the US is being badly and noticeably affected by climate change in the form of extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina; and as the ice melts, climate refugees will start migrating north to Alaska and Canada.
Modern societies are capable of making the technological commitment needed to limit and eventually stabilise emissions of greenhouse gases at an acceptable level and will thus be able to help developing countries take part in a technological development that is sustainable.
We are all living in a great global technological community. Norway and other small and medium-sized countries cannot develop their own technology base by themselves, although this Government has set itself the bold ambition of having a gas power plant with full CO2 capture and storage by 2014.
But if we are to really succeed at global level, the world’s most dynamic economy must be mobilised and must lead the way in technological advances. The US needs to be in the driver’s seat, not applying the brakes or jumping off the train.
And so, dear friends, Norway and the US have a broad range of shared interests and values. This is the basis for a partnership for the 21st century. Inspired by the partnership we had in the 20th century but not exactly the same.
A partnership that draws on the experience of the past but that is driven by the challenges of the future.
If we are to strengthen our cooperation, we need to understand each other better. We Norwegians must learn more about the US; we must listen, look and understand. We must not be so quick to think in terms of stereotypes. The US is a large, multi-faceted country with many nuances, different opinions, groups, attitudes and cultures.
Today there are 743 Norwegian students in the US, according to the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad, but there were nearly 800 last year, and many more in previous years. We must find ways to reverse the negative trend we have seen in recent years in the number of student exchanges – and other exchanges – between our two countries.
I believe we quite simply still know too little about the US, and in the meantime many myths have developed about this giant on the other side of the Atlantic. We know a lot about American films, public figures and technology – and quite a lot about American foreign policy. But we know too little about the everyday lives of ordinary Americans, the American mentality, the economy and the main issues of the country’s domestic policy, all of which have considerable significance for its foreign policy.
Some people are trying to do something about this. I am glad that the Institute for Defence Studies has established a centre for transatlantic studies, precisely for the purpose of fostering greater understanding of the US and the American people.
I myself recently established a new position as coordinator for North America issues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will cover both the US and Canada, and I have initiated an inter-ministerial working group to coordinate and strengthen our cooperation with our closest ally.
Norway could doubtless do more – and we will do more to further develop our ties. More American politicians should and will be invited to Norway – so should American researchers, officers and students.
How can we sum up Norway’s relationship with the US?
I personally believe that Norway and the US share the same aims, hopes and concepts of what is good, and what is peace and what is freedom, as was so powerfully and poetically expressed in the documents of the American Revolution.
Our fascination with the US is not primarily due to its military muscle, but to the vital contribution the country and its people have made to promoting freedom and democracy all over the world. Norway has spoken out – and will continue to do so – when we believe the course is unsteady or when essential values are being undermined in the name of freedom.
This is our understanding of what it means to be “with us rather than against us”. That we say what we mean to a friend. In a true friendship such honesty is tolerated.