Four out of five Norwegians questioned in a new survey have an unfavourable impression of the new US president, Donald Trump. They like Russian President Vladimir Putin more than Trump, which is unfortunate since Trump now leads the country that ranks as Norway’s most important ally.
Oslo-based newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday that the survey, conducted by public opinion research bureaur YouGov at the end of June, showed that fully 66 percent of Norwegians have an “extremely unfavourable” impression of Trump. That compares to 51 percent who said they had an “extremely unfavourable” impression of Putin, who leads Norway’s large neighbour to the east.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, topped the new rankings of which leaders Norwegians liked the most. Trump and Putin were at the bottom of that list.
The extreme dislike of Donald Trump is troublesome in a country like Norway, which has long looked up to the US and has a history of close political, defense and personal relations. Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians have also emigrated to the US, leading to lots of family ties over the Atlantic.
Norwegians now clearly have little if any confidence in Trump, also troublesome for Norwegian government leaders who must deal with his administration. The new survey is in line with another conducted by Pew Research Centre, which also shows a dive in confidence in the US President among 37 countries since Trump took over for Barack Obama in January. Only 22 percent of those questioned think Trump will make good decisions on international issues. That compared to 64 percent for Obama.
Commentators unusually harsh
As Trump travels in Europe this summer, and remains firnly in the headlines, Norwegian commentators have also been issuing unusually harsh evaluations of his abilities and his positions on issues. Even before Trump made his debut at the G20 in Hamburg last week, researcher Sven Melby at the Institute for Defense Studies was all but merciless in his assessment: “Trump has played his international cards poorly, accomplished little on his home turf and created uncertainty everywhere. Putin is doing better than expected.”
Melby also claimed that Trump’s relation to Russia is “a good illustration that Trump’s theory about using negotiating tactics from business can’t be transferred to interntional power politics.”
Bjørn Hansen, a retired foreign correspondent for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) who was based for many years in the US, wrote in newspaper Dagsavisen this week that Trump has pitted the US against the rest of the world. “In the course of a half year, we’ve seen the world’s only superpower abdicate its role as the leading geopolitical actor,” Hansen wrote. “At the same time, Donald Trump in a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has lifted Russia up to being an equal international partner, with the so-called ceasefire agreement for Syria, with none of the warring parties in the Middle East taking part.”
Hansen believes Putin had been striving for that kind of acceptance for the past 17 years and didn’t get it from former US Presidents Clinton, Bush or Obama. Putin can also “be rubbing his hands together in glee” after Trump has withdrawn the US from its international leadership role in everything from trade, climate and security policies. That, according to Hansen, hasd also led to new divisions between Western Europe and the US, while British Prime Minister Theresa May “is acting like a puppet in the hands of an unpredictable, egomaniacal, ignorant and manipulating charlatan in the White House.” No one in Europe, Hansen argued, is looking to Britain for leadership anymore either.
“For small countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, with historically close ties to Great Britain and the US, the situation is extremely challenging,” Hansen wrote. “Perhaps closer colleration between small and medium-sized countries in Northern Europe can offer some breathing room until a rational and more predictable administration in the US takes over.”