More leaks test Nordic-US relations

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A seemingly endless stream of revelations from US documents meant to be kept under wraps continues to stir questions and some bad feelings between Norway and some of its closest allies. Now Sweden is miffed over alleged US-Norwegian conniving on Norway’s selection of fighter jets, while the US reportedly has been uncomfortable with Norway’s left-center government and its efforts to boost Nordic cooperation.

The conflicts stem from documents not only made public by WikiLeaks in recent days but also from other sources of American documentation. In some cases, the Americans have released previously classified documents themselves, as in the case of its concerns over Norwegian control of Svalbard.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported this week that US diplomats believed the Norwegian  government led by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party was putting NATO in danger. Norway’s commitment to build up a defense cooperation among the Nordic countries made US officials uneasy, according to WikiLeaks documents made public and obtained by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

A cable written by an American diplomat at the US Embassy in Stockholm reveals that new defense cooperation among Finland, Norway and Sweden was not popular among the Americans. Sweden, for example, is not a member of NATO and Norwegian cooperation on defense issues could threaten “traditionally strong” trans-Atlantic ties to and focus on NATO.

Moreover, Labour’s coalition government partner in Norway, the Socialist Left party, has always opposed Norway’s own membership in NATO and that hasn’t endeared the party to the Americans. SV has supported Nordic defense cooperation, however, because it feels the US will always put its own interests above those of other countries. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre also supports Nordic cooperation, but stresses that Norway must not enter into any deals that would weaken its role in NATO.

Meanwhile, Norway’s recent long-expected decision to purchase new F-35 fighter jets from US defense contractor Lockheed-Martin disappointed the Swedes, whose own Gripen fighter jet lost out. Now the contents of some WikiLeaks documents reported by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet suggest the US and Norway “cheated” Sweden out of the multi-billion-kroner deal, by secretly letting the Americans know their jets would be selected while the process was still going on.

That’s already been dismissed as “rubbish” by Norwegian defense officials, who contend the competition between the Swedes and the US was real. It came as no surprise that the Norwegians agreed to buy the US jets, even though they’re delayed and expensive, so as not to offend the US. Buying jets from a country that’s not a member of NATO would have been “unthinkable,” according to one military source.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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