Each month, “Ambassador’s Insights” will address various topics facing modern Norway and the bilateral relations between Norway and the U.S. This article first appeared in Viking’s August 2020 issue.
I have served as Norway’s Ambassador to the United States for the past seven years. It has been a privilege and an honor to work every day on further developing the already excellent relationship between our two countries. In a few weeks I will leave Washington, D.C., and move on to new challenges.
It is a strange time to end my tenure here in the United States, as the whole world since late winter has been challenged by a health crisis the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes. It affects us all profoundly. It impacts our economy and way of life to such an extent that I believe we will never really return to our old ways in all respects.
Let me reflect on a few issues that come to mind as particularly important after these years.
The strong friendship between our countries is founded on a common history and shared values, contributing to our common security. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Norwegian and American soldiers are standing shoulder to shoulder on the ground, working together to train, advise and support Afghan and Iraqi security forces as part of a broader effort toward political stability and economic recovery.
Ever since Norway’s independence in 1905, the relations between Norway and the United States have created a wealth of economic opportunities for both countries. Norwegian companies provide expertise and advanced technological solutions in sectors such as shipping, consulting, energy, seafood and defense, and Norway also provides a good marketplace for American companies to do business. A report prepared by the Norwegian Embassy shows that trade with and investments from Norway support almost half a million jobs across the United States.
One of my primary roles as Norway’s Ambassador to the United States has been to make sure that the strong relationship between our countries continues to grow and that we find new areas to cooperate. An experience that still resonates strongly with me was our unique collaboration in 2013 to transport chemical materials out of Syria and destroy them in order to prevent their future use against the Syrian population. The close cooperation with the US in order to make the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement possible is another highlight— which involved Norway taking the lead in transporting enriched uranium out of Iran. Norway and the United States enjoy a long-standing cooperation in the field of conflict resolution, based on our shared view that inclusive political settlements are key to peace and stability. Working with American colleagues to try to contribute to progress in the peace processes in Colombia and Afghanistan has been a particular honor.
Norway is deeply involved in oceans issues, which have featured prominently on the Embassy agenda. There is an urgent need for sustainable oceans solutions, and Norway has a lot to contribute. I have spent a lot of my time talking to stakeholders in government and the private sector about climate policy, and achieving practical cooperation to advance our common efforts. One example would be the state-level cooperation on electrification of transport services.
I always say that I represent 5 million Norwegians living in Norway and 5 million Norwegian Americans living here in the United States. I have been amazed by the enthusiasm and friendship of Norwegian Americans all over this country. I have travelled frequently to meet many of you, all over the Midwest, in Washington state and elsewhere. My travels have taken me to all corners of this country to experience the diversity in landscapes, people and the issues they care about. I have immensely enjoyed the wonderful May 17 celebrations I have been welcomed to.
The work done by Norwegian American organizations and friends in the United States is of immense value to Norway and to the Embassy. Norwegian culture, history and language have a life here through this work! Being an ambassador is all about meeting people and making friends. What a true joy it has been to make so many friends in the United States. May our paths cross again! In the meantime, I will think back upon these seven years with a special sense of pride in what we have achieved together, for Norway and for Norwegian-American relations.
About the Author
Ambassador Kåre R. Aas currently serves as Norway’s Ambassador to the United States.