King Harald V was quick to send a congratulatory message to the new US President Joe Biden, while Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) ran non-stop direct coverage of Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. Biden has won a warm welcome in Norway, where public interest in the recent US turbulence has been enormous.
Most were still breathing sighs of relief that Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris are taking over, that they could finally take office amidst no further violence, and that former US President Donald J Trump had finally left the White House. NRK’s extensive coverage of the historic events on Wednesday attracted widespread viewership, while newspapers and websites have been packed with stories about Biden, Harris and Trump for weeks.
Several newspapers have also been editorializing about the transition, with the country’s biggest, Aftenposten, calling for “steady and pragmatic” leadership after four years of Trump’s unpredictability. Aftenposten noted how Biden has a huge job ahead of him, not least in gaining control over the Corona pandemic and the economic crisis that’s followed.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide was careful, however, in a live interview with NRK Wednesday evening, to not directly say she was “relieved” by the transition. She stressed that the foreign ministry isn’t in a position to make such comments, and instead is keen to work with all democratically elected officials. There’s little question, however, that Norwegian government officials will find it much easier to work with their counterparts in the Biden Administration.
“We’re so lucky that we’re already well-acquainted with many of those now taking over (various posts on Biden’s team),” Søreide said. She indicated that “conversations” and cooperation were already underway, while NRK made a point of noting that the Norwegian Embassy in Washington DC is located close to the new home of Vice President Harris.
“On the occasion of your inauguration as President of the United States of America, I wish to extend my warmest congratulations and my best wishes to you personally and your family,” King Harald wrote in his message to Biden sent just minutes after Biden had taken the oath of office. The monarch also expressed his “hopes for the welfare and prosperity of the American people.”
Prime Minister Erna Solberg had sent her own congratulations to Biden right after the election in November, only to have to watch along with rest of the world how Trump refused to accept his defeat and clung to power. The insurrection he arguably set off at the Capitol on January 6 left Solberg mincing her words about Trump no longer.
“The losing side must acknowledge defeat and contribute to a peaceful transfer of power,” Solberg said the next day. “Trump has broken fundamental democratic principles.” She admitted to being “shocked” by how Trump encouraged his supporters to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, and said the former president had a personal responsibility for the overheated situation in Washington, since he fired up his backers to not accept the election result.
Søreide also had become tougher in her assessment of Trump in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration. “Polarization is a result of two things,” she told NRK. “One is the deeply split American society, and then you have a president who has spent almost all his time making that split deeper. He has continued to put forth lies, conspiracy theories and spread disinformation, and he has wrongly told his voters that they can change the election result.”
Biden can, at the very least, look forward to no small amount of goodwill in Norway, even at a time of resistance by some opposition parties in Parliament to an increase in US military presence in Norway, and what newspaper Klassekampen called “dangerous dependence” on US defense forces just last week. Søreide has countered that Norway has had “a close and good alliance with the US” since World War II that will likely continue regardless of who is president.