U.S.-Norway ties key in future


Photo: Norway Times archives.

The U.S. Ambassador to Norway spoke at the Humphrey Institute Wednesday. 

By Taryn Wobbema – Mndaily.com

You can go to the remote places of the world and you’re going to find an American, and next to him you’ll find a Norwegian.

Ambassador Benson Whitney expressed this sentiment in an interview Wednesday prior to a public forum at the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, at which he emphasized the United States-Norway partnership that has been characterized by generosity and forward thinking.

As U.S. ambassador to Norway, appointed under the Bush Administration in 2005, Whitney said he is responsible for maintaining the strong international relationship that has existed for a great number of years — one that has brought more than many Norwegian immigrants to the United States. However, Whitney said, the future of the United States’ relationship with Norway does not lie in the past. Presently, Norway is involved on a global scale, helping to establish peace and offering support to countries in need, he said. Robert Kudrle, director of the Freeman Center for International Economic Policy in the Humphrey Institute, said Norway gives almost 1 percent of its gross national product to underdeveloped countries. This surpasses the .7 percent the United Nations recommended in the 1970s. The United States currently gives .2 percent, Kudrle said.

Norway is changing, Whitney said. The nation has gone from one of the poorest to one of the richest countries.This is partly due to its exportation of oil, Kudrle said. Brian Atwood, dean of the Humphrey Institute, said Norway is small — home to about 4.5 million people, which is smaller than Minnesota — but the fact that it produces oil and uses its resources to promote peace gives it clout. Atwood pointed to Norway’s role in peace talks between Israel and Palestine during former President Bill Clinton’s administration, under which Atwood served as the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development . Norway also has troops in Afghanistan and has contributed to peace and reconciliation in Sudan. “More than ever, we need countries that look beyond their borders,” Atwood said.

In the embassy in Oslo, Whitney said he and his staff build on the United States’ relationship with Norway so that the allies can improve their effectiveness in the world. The United States has to learn to communicate its vision, and Europe has to stand and “share the burden of leadership,” Whitney said. This will help the trans-Atlantic alliance move into the 21st century and prepare those involved to address “global problems [that] require global solutions,” he said, referring to troubles like H1N1, terrorism and poverty. Under a new administration with an evident desire to reach out, Whitney said the United States has an opportunity to do more in diplomacy. 

After his term is completed in June, Whitney said he and his family plan to move to Washington, D.C., where the ambassador will pursue further work in international affairs

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