One of the early effects of the recent US election on Norway is taking place this week. The US ambassador appointed by outgoing US President Barack Obama is already leaving, less than a year after he arrived. Now it’s up to the incoming president, Donald Trump, to send his own choice to Oslo.
Heins took formal farewell with Norway’s King Harald V on Monday and was expected to leave Oslo by the end of the week. His departure is, according to an embassy statement, “consistent with standard worldwide practice with the change of administrations in the United States.”
Heins, a Democrat, had himself admitted that he would find it “difficult” and “challenging” to represent some of Trump’s Republian views and policies. Heins made no secret of his hope that Hillary Clinton would win last November’s election, and was disappointed when that didn’t happen.
In an appearance on one of state broadcaster NRK’s TV talk shows after the election, Heins had candidly admitted that he’d be uncomfortable serving under Trump. Issues such as Trump’s threatened mass deportation of immigrants in the US illegally would have been hard for him to defend, he said, “in good conscience.”
Heins, a lawyer from Minnesota who chooses his words carefully, nonetheless sought to reassure Norwegians stunned by Trump’s election. Trump as president, he noted, may be forced to behave differently than he did as a tough-talking candidate. Heins himself found comfort in the strength of the US’ democratic institutions, and system of checks and balances on government power. He insisted the US would remain a strong ally of Norway.
He arrived in Oslo just last spring, after Obama’s nomination of Heins as envoy to Norway had been held up for many months by a quarrelsome Republican majority in Congress. Heins has said he would have liked to remain in Norway much longer, and may well have been kept on by Clinton if she’d won the White House. The mild-mannered Heins didn’t have enough time to establish a well-known presence in the country but had said he wanted to be “visible” and did indeed take part in several public events, from marching in last year’s gay pride parade to driving around Oslo wearing a nisselue (Santa Claus cap) during the holiday season.
When Heins literally leaves the building that still houses the US Embassy in Oslo, until it’s finally replaced by a new complex at Huseby later this year, the current Deputy Chief of Mission, Jim DeHart, will be in charge as Chargé d’Affaires. It’s unclear when Trump will nominate a new ambassador to Norway, or who that may be.