Nordic Innovation Series: Diplomats in Dialogue
Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes visits Seattle and talks to The Norwegian American
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
Norway’s ambassador to the United States, Anniken R. Krutnes, has been with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1994. Over the years, she has worked at home and abroad, with all her previous postings in Europe. She has worked with security policy and legal questions and is an expert in Arctic and Antarctic affairs.
One year after her appointment as the first Norwegian woman ambassador to the United States, she visited the National Nordic Museum in Seattle on Sept. 13 to kick off the 2021 Nordic Innovation series with Finnish ambassador Mikko Hautula. In their “Diplomats in Dialogue” conversation and open discussion, they talked about the renewable energy, maritime innovation, wireless technology, cybersecurity, and political relations between the United States and the Nordic region.
Krutnes had a hectic itinerary while in the Pacific Northwest, which included a visit to the Seattle waterfront to inspect a Washington state ferry, tours at Boeing and Microsoft, and meeting with community leaders, professors, and students at the University of Washington. She also took the time to talk to The Norwegian American.
Western Washington state, home to many Norwegian Americans, and Norway have a good deal in common, both in terms of geography and industry. Ambassador Krutnes talked enthusiastically about technical innovation within the maritime industry that can be shared.
Norway has already signed a memo of understanding with Washington state for blue tech cooperation, as Washington is working toward electrifying its ferry system. In Norway, already one-third of the ferries are electric, and Krutnes emphasized that her country has knowledge that can be leveraged, including lessons learned. For example, when the new electric fleet was first deployed in Norway, there were battery-charging issues, problems that have now been solved. The ambassador was reassured that this will not be a problem in Washington state but that there are other areas for an exchange of ideas and cooperation.
The law of the sea and security policy are very high on the ambassador’s agenda and intricately interwoven with Arctic issues. Krutnes is working closely with the new administration in Washington, D.C., on ocean management, which encompasses the oil and gas industries, fisheries, wind power, and cruise tourism—in other words, blue and green economy policy. Norway is a leader in offshore wind power, with big projects off the coast of New York and new business in California.
The exchange of ideas goes in both directions. Krutnes was interested to hear about groundbreaking research and engineering innovation at the University of Washington to reduce underwater pile-driving noise, with its negative impact on sea life and construction schedules.
The Norwegian ambassador stressed the importance of the transatlantic NATO alliance and that the United States and Norway remain close allies. As a close friend, Norway was the last country to leave Afghanistan before the United States, and during her conversation on the stage at the museum, Krutnes said, “We’re very happy to see the U.S. back on the world stage,” as the audience broke out into applause.
Krutnes attended the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden. She is looking forward to meeting Vice President Kamala Harris, who lives across the street from her in Washington, D.C. She is pleased to see women represented in the international political landscape and understands the importance of gender equality in politics.
“You want the people who represent you to really represent you. Politicians should represent a society. There are plenty of qualified women for all these positions, with very highly qualified women all over the world,” she said.
I asked Ambassador Krutnes how it felt to be posted abroad during the pandemic.
“The regular work at the embassy has been very different during COVID,” she said, “with a lot of Zoom meetings and webinars. You can connect with people who are far away and connect with Norway. That is something we will continue with; it’s very practical. But at some point, you want to meet people in person. If you want small talk and creativity, you have to meet in person.”
Coming to the United States during a time of social turmoil and transition has also caused Krutnes to reflect further on what Norway and the United States can learn from each other.
“It is important to understand that Norway is not a socialist country,” she said. “In Norway, we have capitalism with a heart: universal health care and access to education. We have decades of experience with the Nordic model. We have a good balance between work and homelife, family-friendly politics. We are on the top with family politics. There are ideas and experiences to share from our model of society.”
Krutnes understands that Norwegians can also learn from Americans. She has seen how creative ideas so quickly find their way into the marketplace here. During the pandemic, she saw how street lanes were closed to traffic and tables were quickly put outside by restaurants. Online ordering and pickup are easy and efficient. “Americans are marketing things all the time,” she said.
Finally, we talked about the renovation of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The work has taken several years, and an official opening is planned for December.
“It’s a fantastic building,” the ambassador said. “There’s a new, big open room that opens up into the garden for concerts and lectures, like a hall. It’s very Nordic.” The ambassador is looking forward to welcoming the American people there.
“I am happy to be here both professionally and personally,” Ambassador Krutnes said. “People are so nice, so friendly, open, and warm; the people are fantastic.”
See also “Meet Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes,” Lori Ann Reinhall, The Norwegian American, Feb. 26, 2021.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 8, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.