A stronger bond between Norway and the United States and a visit from Donald Trump.
These are two of the goals the fresh American ambassador has set.
“I hope that when I travel from here, the relationship between Norway and the United States is stronger than it has ever been. I want to make sure that we stand by the Norwegian people, as friend and ally,” said Kenneth J. Braithwaite, who joined the embassy on Thursday.
While predecessor, Barack Obama spent two and a half years setting up a visit to Oslo, Donald Trump has worked much faster. Just over a year after the presidency, Braithwaite had been approved by the Senate, and moved into the venerable Villa Otium in Oslo, together with his wife, two children and their dogs.
Braithwaite said he’s aiming to provide a revival after Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Høyre (H) visited Washington recently.
“I think Trump would appreciate visiting Norway. He has a very high opinion of the Norwegian people.
He appreciates hard work, and knows that it is part of the Norwegian culture”, he said.
Trump like the king
Braithwaite believes that a lot of Norwegians’ scepticism toward Trump is based on misconceptions. He has met him several times, and describes him as an honest man.
“He is warm and engaged, a great personality. He’s a bit like King Harald, it makes an impression when you’re in the same room as him,” said the ambassador, who admits that the president is not like other politicians. He did not comment on the fact that no women have made any claims of sexual misconduct against King Harald.
“He’s a Manhattan businessman, he says what he thinks without a filter.”
Strengthen the ties
Braithwaite has a degree from the American Navy, has been a regular instructor at NATO School in Germany, and talks warmly talking about meeting with Norwegians, and the Norwegian navy, during a bilateral exercise
in Lofoten in 1989. He is well aware of the importance of NATO , but it is also bilateral military cooperation between Norway and the United States, he emphasised.
“The President said that by sending me here, Norwegian people will understand that we want to establish strong ties in terms of national security. The Norwegians have been our strong NATO Allies. You have shown a commitment to NATO which is incomparable”, he said.
He believes Norwegians will also notice that the relationship will be stronger in the months and years to come.
Grows with the task
Braithwaite’s own family history is strongly linked to the history of the alliance between the United States and Europe.
His father was seriously injured when he, along with other American and Allied soldiers, landed in France in 1944. However,he rejects the idea that Trumps doctrine of “America first” would prevent Americans from making a similar sacrifice today.
“We are a country that grows with the task. It may, of course, take us some time to determine what task it is, but we never fail in our promise to stand up for our allies. Norway has been shown to be our perhaps foremost ally, both under article five and in bilateral cooperation,” he said.
“The fact that the US president wants to work for his country’s interests is as natural as that Norway’s government takes care of the Norwegian people”, said the ambassador.
Why not budgetary goals?
In Europe, Trump has created uncertainty about the role of the United States in NATO, including a clear demand for Europeans to pay their part of the bill.
NATO countries have a goal that defence budgets should amount to at least 2% of GDP. But the government admitted in a letter to parliament that Norway is moving in the wrong direction. The share will be 1.56% this year, then fall to approximately 1.5% in 2020 and the following years. But it does not worry Braithwaite.
“Your economy has grown and BDP changes. We realise that it’s not easy, but I’m pretty sure the Norwegian government will reach the goal,” said Braithwaite.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today