Ex-ambassador mum on WikiLeaks

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Benson Whitney, the former US Ambassador to Norway, won’t comment on the ridicule and derogatory reports he wrote home to Washington about Norway. While Whitney purported to be a friend of Norway during his term as ambassador, he privately wrote scathing reports about his Norwegian hosts.

As one Norwegian newspaper columnist wrote last week, former US Ambassador Benson Whitney probably won't be getting many heartfelt holiday greetings from Norwegian officials this year, given his mockery of local politics and politicians. PHOTO: US Department of State

Many of Whitney’s reports back to US officials in Washington have been made public in recent weeks by WikiLeaks, and reported in Norwegian media. In them Whitney commented on everything from what he perceived as Norwegian arrogance to the country’s lack of appreciation for what he clearly viewed as American support and superiority.

In one of the latest diplomatic cables unveiled this week, Whitney wrote that US officials should remind Norway about where the country’s security guarantees come from. Whitney seemed especially concerned that Norway’s left-center government, which won the national election just as Whitney was assuming his post in Oslo in 2005, was initiating new defense alliances outside NATO.

If the US ignored the Norwegian government’s interest, for example, in a Nordic defense alliance, Whitney claimed it could eventually weaken strong trans-Atlantic ties in defense policy.

Whitney and other US diplomats also wrote negative characterizations of individual Norwegian politicians and government  ministers, ridiculed what he saw as a tendency among Norwegians to think they’re “best,” and worried that the current government’s new initiatives in foreign policy couldn’t be “controlled” by the US.

He and his fellow Americans at the US Embassy in Oslo are clearly also pushing for the Norwegian government to open up the waters around scenic Lofoten in northern Norway to offshore oil exploration and drilling. One document reported by newspaper Aftenposten on Monday indicated that opportunities around Lofoten will decide whether US oil companies remain active in the Norwegian oil industry. Existing opportunities on the Norwegian continental shelf were viewed as mediocre.

Whitney’s harsh criticism and often sarcastic comments about Norway and the Norwegians have been blasted over the front pages of many local papers in the past week. The former ambassador, who had been appointed by former US President George Bush and left Norway last year, won’t comment on them now, reported Aftenposten on Monday.

Last week Whitney referred inquiries to the US Embassy in Oslo. When Aftenposten requested comment over the weekend, Whitney sent a text message that it still wouldn’t be appropriate for him to comment on his leaked reports, which were never intended to be made public.

Whitney, a Republican from Minnesota, worked as finance chair for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004, a job which led to his appointment as Bush’s ambassador in Norway, a posting generally linked to political patronage. The former managing general partner of an investment fund and president of the Minnesota Venture Capital Association has since returned to work in the finance business in Washington, reported Aftenposten.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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