White House finally extends invitation

In the midst of seemingly endless embarrassing revelations about the low opinion some US officials have had of Norwegian politics and politicians, comes a long-sought invitation for Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to visit US President Barack Obama at the White House. The timing of the invitation may indicate that US officials want to clear the air with their Norwegian allies, at the highest levels.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg with US president Barack Obama when Obama was in Oslo last year. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor/Per Thrana

No date has been set yet, reports VG, but “Obama has invited Stoltenberg back to the USA, and the visit has been confirmed by American authorities in Washington,” State Secretary Torbjørn Giæver Eriksen told VG.

Stoltenberg has met Obama on several occasions, not least when Obama was in Oslo last year to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. New documents made available through WikiLeaks and reported by VG show that Norwegian officials have put in several requests over the years for a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House.

They finally succeeded, after weeks of turmoil surrounding controversial surveillance conducted by the US Embassy in Oslo, and a flood of criticism from US officials that’s been revealed in numerous WikiLeaks documents. Both the surveillance and the criticism, some of it harsh and personal, have put a chill on otherwise outwardly friendly relations between Norway and the US.

Both Norwegian and US officials insist relations remain friendly, but the WikiLeaks revelations have highlighted tensions and disagreements over foreign policy, anti-terrorism efforts and a host of other areas. One former US ambassador to Norway went so far as to worry that changes in Norwegian foreign policy during the Stoltenberg administration couldn’t be “controlled,” thus putting relations in danger of being damaged.

Now Stoltenberg and Obama presumably will have a chance to talk and settle any differences they may have. Just this week, for example, Stoltenberg has felt forced to reject criticism from some US diplomats in Oslo that his government hasn’t been tough enough with anti-terrorism measures but Stoltenberg was quick to point out that he doesn’t think all the WikiLeaks revelations reflect official US policy. Stoltenberg has been an unabashed admirer of Obama, and has looked forward to another meeting.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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