Bureaucrats sought Americans’ help

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Several top Norwegian bureaucrats have revealed internal workings of the Norwegian government to diplomats at the US Embassy in Oslo, according to documents made available by WikiLeaks. The bureaucrats reportedly did so when seeking aid from diplomats they thought could pressure members of the Norwegian government into adopting more US-friendly policies.

In one example, bureaucrats in the defense ministry told American diplomats how Norway’s defense minister might be persuaded to send special forces to Afghanistan. The special forces were eventually sent.

The contents of the WikiLeaks documents, reported by newspaper Aftenposten, have raised alarms in government ministries, along with questions over where the line should be drawn in diplomatic dealings even between allies like the US and Norway.

In another case, the government resisted sending Norwegian troops into southern Afghanistan. Some bureaucrats, however, thought Norway should contribute with troops there, and let that be known to the American diplomats.

As researcher Ivar Neumann told Aftenposten, though, foreign policy is supposed to be carried out by elected officials, not bureaucrats. “If that’s broken, it can raise questions of disloyalty and dereliction of duty,” Neumann told Aftenposten.

He and others, not least Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and US Ambassador Barry White, warned that individual documents revealed by WikiLeaks may be exaggerated, or taken out of context. Moreover, the assessments and information passed on by a diplomat are used to help form policy and do not reflect official policy.

None of the bureaucrats were identified by Aftenposten, even though many of their names were included in the embassy cables revealed by WikiLeaks. Jan Egeland, a former top Norwegian and UN diplomat who now runs foreign policy research center NUPI in Oslo, cautioned that bureaucrats shouldn’t be better friends with a foreign country than with their own government.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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