Donald Trump was not her first choice to become president of the United States, but Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg took his surprise victory in stride on Wednesday. “I congratulate him,” Solberg declared, and said the US would continue to be Norway’s most important ally, also during a Trump presidency.
“The American people have spoken,” Solberg said at a Wednesday morning press conference broadcast live nationwide. She noted how the US presidential campaign had “engaged the entire world,” and that she was glad a far more conciliatory Trump also had called for widespread international cooperation in his victory speech just an hour earlier.
Solberg made it clear that the US and Norway have common interests and common values, and that the US is important for the Norwegian economy, jobs and, not least, national security. Norway has been especially concerned about Trump’s criticism of NATO, on which Norway bases its defense that on Election Day itself became subject to a new long-term plan hammered out among the country’s three largest parties in Parliament. Solberg admitted she was surprised over the US election results that finally led Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to concede defeat after she initially refused to do so.
Solberg leads Norway’s Conservative Party, which would have made it more logical for her and her party to support Trump’s Republican bid for the White House. Her foreign minister Børge Brende, however, had taken the highly unusual step earlier this autumn of expressing concern over several of Trump’s positions. While he and Solberg were careful to note that Norway had no tradition of taking sides in other countries’ election campaigns, Trump’s campaign rhetoric against the international climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and free trade treaties, for example, worried them greatly.
Brende even claimed he was “uneasy” over Trump’s candidacy, and that he “deeply” disagreed with Trump’s positions on trade and especially NATO. Leaders of Solberg’s government support parties and not least party leaders in opposition in the Norwegian Parliament clearly favoured Clinton.
Solberg downplayed the earlier concerns over Trump’s rhetoric, conceding that she and Brende “absolutely did not agree” with many of Trump’s positions but claiming that “we have to take his word” that Trump was now ready to reconcile, “get along” and have “great relations” with other nations, as expressed in his victory speech Wednesday morning.
Great uncertainty remains and Solberg said it was “much too early” to say what changes may lie ahead regarding relations between Norway and the US. She stressed differences between election campains and actual governance, and seemed hopeful that President Trump will be easier to deal with than the Candidate Trump was.
“We want to come into a dialogue,” she said. “We need a USA with clear leadership,” adding that “we must build further on the cooperation between Europe and the US.” She noted that her party, as well as other parties, has ties with other politicians within the US Republican Party itself: While the group around Trump was “small,” she said, “it’s a big party,” and that it’s the party that won in the end.