Apr 22, 2021 - World

Norwegian PM acknowledges malleability to U.S. commitments

President Trump is seen meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in the Ovai Office in 2018.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg meets with President Trump in Jan. 2018. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg acknowledged Thursday the precedent-shattering Trump administration fueled a belief that agreements or promises made by one U.S. president now come with a four-year expiration date.

Why it matters: "We are not naive," Solberg said in response to a question from Axios. The view is particularly important as climate change opens the Arctic to exploration, exploitation and militarization by the Russians, and they chafe at NATO defense exercises in Norway and elsewhere on their doorstep.

  • Norway is supposed to be protected by the United States and other fellow NATO members against any potential Russian aggression under the organization's Article 5 mutual-defense pact.
  • President Trump bad-mouthed NATO and called on its members to increase their defense spending, while also praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. That raised doubts during Trump's term about U.S. willingness to resist Russian aggression, a position President Biden has reversed.

What they're saying: Solberg spoke to Axios about climate change and other topics amid her involvement in a two-day climate summit convened by Biden.

  • "We hope that the Arctic will still be a low-tension area," she said. "Our placement in the Arctic is never going to be totally without tension in the area, because of the entry to the Atlantic."
  • "I don't think the Russians have been surprised about the agreement we have with the U.S., or the training and activity," the prime minister added.

Solberg complained there was no leadership from the U.S. in multilateral organizations during the Trump era. Yet she praised the U.S.’s continued engagement in defense matters.

  • “We felt the need for more American leadership and presence in those organizations, but they were there on security issues," she said.
  • Solberg has spoken recently with Vice President Harris, and expressed optimism about the U.S.' alliance as it faces global giants not just in the form of Russia but also China. She noted the focus in her conversations with the U.S. is continuing to shift more toward China than Russia during the last several years.

"They are helping us put up the barrier and becoming a part of the deterrence, because they have shown that any attack would be more difficult," Solberg said, noting the U.S.-Norway relationship proves the "NATO alliance is, in fact, functioning."

Go deeper