Solberg: Spying on allies ‘unacceptable’

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Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg seemed characteristically unruffled on Monday over reports during the weekend about alleged US spying on its own allies including Norway. She called any such spying “unacceptable” but added that she wasn’t worried if they’d spied on her personally, suggesting she leads a “boring” life.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her defense minster, Frank Bakke-Jensen, seem reluctant to confront US officials over reports the US spied on them and members of the former Norwegian government between 2012 and 2014. They’re seen  here at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2017. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“I have lived a long life with the thought that I always need to be aware that someone, either friendly or unfriendly, can try to find out what I’m up to,” Solberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday. “It pays to live a boring life.”

Solberg is known for having allowed photographers into her messy kitchen while her husband Sindre prepared dinner, not long before she won the prime minister’s post in 2013. Her life has mostly revolved around politics, her Conservative Party and her family.

She and most other top Norwegian politicians also often refer to the US as Norway’s “most important ally.” After a recent and highly embarrassing spying scandal of their own, in which retired Norwegian border inspector Frode Berg was caught and convicted of espionage in Moscow, Solberg’s defense minister, Frank Bakke-Jensen, has also seemed especially eager to please, not confront, US officials. He’s had to fend off criticism lately for accommodating their requests for everything from troop placements and US bombers on Norwegian soil to the berthing of US nuclear submarines. When asked on Sunday whether he had raised any questions with his American counterparts about their alleged spying on allies, Bakke-Jensen told NRK “no, I haven’t.”

Denmark suspected of allowing US monitoring
Norwegian leaders seem generally reluctant to confront their US conterparts over the new charges that the US spied on Norwegian, Swedish, French and German leaders between 2012 and 2014. It’s not the first time such spying charges have come up, but now Denmark is being blamed for allowing it.

NRK reported Sunday about the alleged spying revealed through international cooperation between Danmarks Radio, Swedish broadcaster SVT, French newspaper Le Monde, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and European broadcasters NDR and WDR. Danmarks Radio reported that Danish officials allowed US intelligence agencies to monitor Internet traffic that passes through Denmark.

“If that’s true, it’s a deep, serious and disturbing breach of confidence,” claimed Member of Parliament Audun Lysbakken, leader of the Socialist Left party (SV). Lysbakken is a member of the parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee and his party has always opposed NATO.

Asking the Danes for an explanation
Solberg and Bakke-Jensen were more relaxed but they are seeking an explanation from their “Danish colleagues” in Copenhagen, who in turn needed to find out what may or may not have happened as long as nine years ago. Neither the US National Security Agency (NSA) nor the Danish intelligence agency responded to requests for comment.

“It is unacceptable if countries that have close allied cooperation feel a need to spy on one another, or gather information about them,” Solberg told NRK on Monday. “There’s no reason for them (the US) to carry out espionage against Norwegian targets.”

That, Solberg said, is why her government now “wants to know as much as possible from Denmark. They have set up their own investigation to go through this. We have asked for the information they have.”

Solberg added that any such spying among allies “generates more mistrust than it does cooperation, so it’s not a wise investment for the Americans.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund