Meet Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes
Common values, creativity, collaboration, and friendship
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
Her appointment as Norway’s first woman ambassador to the United States was historic. Meet Anniken Ramberg Krutnes, career diplomat, expert in security issues, law of the sea, Arctic affairs, and renewable energy.
With 27 years behind her in the Norwegian foreign service, she is eminently qualified for her new position. But her warm and winning personality is without a doubt one of her greatest assets as one of the world’s top diplomats.
Given her busy schedule, The Norwegian American was fortunate to secure an exclusive telephone interview with Ambassador Krutnes. We talked about her background, Norway’s agenda in the global community, the role of women in today’s world, and the challenges faced by diplomats during the time of the COVID-19.
Krutnes studied at the prestigious Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, graduating with a master’s of science degreee in economics and administration. Later, while at the foreign ministry, she earned a master’s of law degree from the University of Oslo. She also studied international management at Universitá Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy. With an Italian great-grandmother, her affinity for the Mediterranean has always been strong.
Previous posts include her tenure as deputy director general for the department of security policy, and before that, she was Norway’s ambassador for Arctic and Antarctic affairs. She has also served as ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
On Sept. 17, 2020, Krutnes presented her credentials to President Donald J. Trump, making her Norway’s 15th ambassador to the United States. Since then, she attended the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris.
While the new administration settles in, the Royal Norwegian Embassy is in daily contact with their American colleagues. She has yet to meet the president and vice president personally, but it is not unlikely that she may run into to VP Harris, who has moved in right across the street from her. Mention of this led to a discussion about the significance of women holding senior positions in politics and diplomacy.
“You want the people who represent you to really represent you,” she said. “Our leaders should be representative of society as a whole.” While there are plenty of qualified women to take the lead all over the world, in many countries—including the United States—there is disproportionate number of men in leadership positions. Krutnes is used to working with women, and is happy to see more of them entering the public sphere.
The ambassador has served on the Arctic Council, and her expertise in Arctic issues will play a central role in her work in the United States. Both Norway and the United States are Arctic nations, with strong stakes in the region, regarding security, the economy, and the environment.
“The law of the seas is part of the Arctic,” Krutnes said. In the same vein, climate issues are also a very important part of Norwegian-American cooperation, with innovation in renewable energy at the forefront. Norway leads in both electric cars and ferries, as both our countries are developing green and blue economic policies. The development of offshore wind power is also a key component. The ambassador pointed to Equinor’s Empire Wind project off the coast of New York as an example of Norwegian-American collaboration.
Very high on her agenda in her role as Norway’s top diplomat in the United States is security. The transatlantic relationship is very important to Norway. Both countries are members of NATO and will continue to work closely together. The alliance between Norway and the United States has a long history, going back to World War II, a bond that is very strongly felt by Krutnes and her generation.
She was recently reminded of this when watching the new TV-series Atlantic Crossing, which tells the story of the royal family’s exile in the United States during the war years.
“Our current Norwegian king, King Harald, spent many of his young years in the United States,” Krutnes said. “The ties go even further back,” she added. “It is estimated that there are almost as many Norwegian Americans as Norwegians in Norway.”
For Krutnes, exchange between the two countries will always play an important role. As a teen, she was a high school exchange student in a small town in North Carolina. It was a “very positive experience” in which she “learned a lot.”
While some express concern in the decline in student exchange between Norway and the United States, Krutnes sees this development part of a changing world. In the past, the opportunities to travel other places, such as Singapore and India, didn’t exist for young Norwegians, as the entire world has become more inter-connected. In the same way, young Americas now look beyond Europe for their education and adventures abroad.
That said, the ambassador underlines that our two countries have a lot that can be learned from each other.
“In Norway, we have capitalism with a heart, with universal health care and open access to education,” she said. “We have decades of experience with the Nordic model.” Krutnes sees that a balance between work and home life is important, and she believes that Norway has much to share about its family-friendly system.
At the same time, Norway can take cues from the United States, where so many creative ideas quickly find their way into the marketplace. She has experienced this American ingenuity firsthand in Washington, D.C., during the pandemic, when she saw how quickly the city was able to close lanes of traffic, so that restaurants could set up tables outside. At the same time, apps were quickly developed for ordering food for pick-up. “New things are being marketed all the time,” she said.
But COVID-19 presents many challenges for a diplomat. Putting travel plans on hold is one of them. So far, the ambassador has only been able to visit Minneapolis, because of health risks and travel restrictions imposed because of the pandemic. She is very anxious to get out and meet the American people, but for the time being, much diplomacy is being conducted via the telephone, Zoom meetings, and webinars. Krutnes sees the value of this way of working, yet at some point, she knows it’s important to get out and network on the ground.
“If you want the small talk and creativity, you have to meet in person,” she said. “A lot of the work of a diplomat is to get to know people and listen. There is not always a special agenda.”
And when the COVID-19 situation eases up, the ambassador will finally get to explore her new home in the United States. Leaving three grown children back home in Norway, Krutnes’ husband, Kjetil, has come along with her to Washington, D.C., and they have already started to enjoy the natural surroundings, taking hikes in the Shenandoah Valley. She seems to be enjoying her new post here.
“I am so happy to be here, both professionally and personally,” she said. People are so nice, so friendly, so open and warm.”
But the Norwegian ambassador’s new American journey has just begun. There is an entire vast country out there, filled with thousands and thousands of Norwegian Americans. From Miami to Seattle, from New York to Los Angeles, they are eagerly waiting to welcome her.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 26, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.