UPDATED: Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre downplayed revelations from leaked US diplomatic documents on Monday, and condemned that they’d been made public by website WikiLeaks. While others have warned the leaks can lead to a global diplomatic crisis, Støre begged to differ and has no plans to impose new restrictions on his own staff.
Støre made it clear he didn’t like “normal diplomatic correspondence” being made public “in this way.” The reason, he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), was that “an important part of our relations with other countries is that we have diplomats who can write home confidentially.”
He told newspaper Aftenposten that Norwegian diplomats can continue to report freely and directly even though that can lead to the same sort of embarrassment that the Americans are now experiencing. “They must continue to be honest” in their assessments, Støre said, and cover the countries to which they’re assigned closely.
Last year, Norway had a taste of what the American are now going through when a report written by diplomat Mona Juul was leaked to Aftenposten. In it, she was highly critical of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon but Støre claims he welcomes such candor. “The problem with Mona Juul’s criticism was that it leaked out,” he told Aftenposten on Tuesday.
He said he didn’t think the new leaks will have much influence on relations between various countries’ relations, even though American diplomats made numerous derogatory remarks about several national leaders.
“We know that our diplomats make their own evaluations, and they’re not written to be published in a newspaper,” Støre told NRK, adding that he thinks the embarrassing contents of the leaked documents will get more attention in the media than among governments.
Nor does Støre fear “unfortunate” information being disclosed in any documents originating from Norway. “I don’t dread what may come,” he told NRK, referring to the more than 700 documents reportedly sent from the US Embassy in Oslo to Washington. A WikiLeaks spokeswoman said more documents involving Norway will be released in the coming weeks.
Støre went so far as to say he “honestly wasn’t interested” in what American diplomats have written from Oslo over the years. “It’s normal practice that a government gets an impression from their embassies in that way,” Støre said. “We’re used to that.”
The American diplomats have written, among other things, that they think Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Belusconi, is “vain” and “ineffective,” that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is “an emperor with no clothes” and characterized Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev as “Batman and Robin,” giving the clear impression that the US views Putin as the man with power in Russia.
The documents also revealed that US diplomats were ordered by Washington to spy on United Nations personnel, even to get their credit card and frequent flyer information. Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, refused to answer questions on the matter, claiming only that US diplomats “work hard” and with “integrity” in a complex world.