Stoltenberg's conversation poisoned relations with the white house
The way Stoltenberg handled a congratulatory phone call from former U.S. President George W. Bush poisoned relations with the staff at the White House, according to NRK’s source.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was not honest about the contents of a telephone conversation he had with then-President George W. Bush in 2005, an anonymous U.S. source with access to the matter tells NRK.
On Wednesday night, Aftenposten wrote that that the call was the reason that Stoltenberg was never invited to the White House while George W. Bush was president.
Stoltenberg will visit current U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House on Oct. 20.
“This was supposed to be a nice congratulatory phone call to a newly elected Norwegian Prime Minister from the world’s most powerful leader, the President of the United States, but Jens Stoltenberg managed to mess this up,” says NRK’s knowledgeable U.S. source, who only speaks in complete anonymity because of the case’s sensitive nature.
The White House said, according to NRK’s source, that Stoltenberg was not honest about the content of the conversation, and that he claimed the question of Norwegian officers in Iraq was not a direct issue in the brief telephone conversation.
“It was inappropriate for the Norwegian Prime Minister to take up a controversial issue when the U.S. President was calling to congratulate him on the election,” says the source.
President Bush’s closest advisers reacted with disbelief when Stoltenberg gave a public representation of the telephone conversation that they claim was not correct. NRK’s source says that the first impression of the staff in the White House of Stoltenberg was dishonesty.
“The handling of the call poisoned the relationship between staff in the White House and the Norwegian authorities,” claims the U.S. source.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg confirms to NRK that “confusion arose” after the conversation he had with George Bush in 2005.
It should be noted that Norway’s attitude toward Iraq was well-known to President Bush and that he accepted the attitude, but it was the powerful team around the president who were offended by what they perceived as dishonesty.
The relationship between President Bush and Stoltenberg was maintained as a professional one and the two met in different contexts, both in the UN and NATO, but the staff at the White House made sure that Stoltenberg was pushed down the priority list of who was allowed entry into the oval office at the White House.
The phone call affected therefore the direct relationship between Norway and the United States, and the source NRK spoke with says that it made it hopeless for the American Embassy in Oslo to try to secure access for the Norwegian Prime Minister to the White House.
President Bush’s staff would simply not prioritize Jens Stoltenberg in the queue of world leaders who wanted a conversation in private with the U.S. president.
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