Prime Minister Erna Solberg arrived in Brussels Tuesday evening for this week’s NATO Summit, and it didn’t take long for US Donald Trump to shake things up. She claimed, though, that neither he nor his provocative comments on Twitter would direct the meeting.
She admitted there was “no doubt” that Trump’s rhetoric at a breakfast meeting Wednesday was “challenging.” Before anyone had a bite to eat, Trump was bashing the US’ own NATO ally Germany for having entered into a gas pipeline deal with Russia. Trump has already been complaining that no one pays as much into NATO as the US, and he doesn’t think Germany should also be paying “billions and billions of dollars” to Russia for gas. Trump claimed Germany has thus allowed itself to be “totally controlled” by Russia.
Solberg’s government won’t express an opinion on Germany’s gas deal with Russia, “for the simple reason that Norway is Russia’s biggest competitor in the European gas market,” she told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday. It’s no secret, however, that Solberg is a big supporter of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and quickly offered to back a Merkel-negotiated EU plan to address the migrant crisis in Europe.
Solberg also, in reference to Trump’s complaints about Germany, claimed that “all countries should be better at not dragging in other conflict-generating issues, like trade policies. We must look at the huge value NATO has, and (the meeting) won’t be directed via Twitter messages from the American president.”
Solberg was also ready to counter any complaints from Trump that Norway isn’t paying enough into NATO either. She stresses that Norwegian defense spending is up by 24 percent and that Norway is keen to get the most out of every krone allocated.
She took part in the official opening of the NATO Summit on Wednesday along with Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen, who’s attending his first NATO Summit. Solberg conceded that she had “registered that very many are anxious over the outcome of the meeting” that the leaders of all 29 NATO countries would be having.
She said she was confident NATO members would agree on “more and better security,” stressing at a meeting with Norwegian media in Brussels that “we’re better off working on how NATO raises our security.” She also noted that European members don’t only get help from the US and Canada. “We also contribute to the US’ and Canada’s security,” she said.