Sunday

5th Jul 2020

US ambassador lampoons Nordic military pact

Proposals for the five Nordic countries to create a mini-Nato alliance are "dreams in Polar fog" but may be useful for "keeping an eye on Polar bears and Russians", according to the former US ambassador to Norway, Benson Whitney.

Mr Whitney used the irreverent language in a confidential cable dated March 2009 and published on Thursday (13 January) by WikiLeaks.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The Stoltenberg plan, drafted after years-long consultations with Nordic capitals, was summed up as 'dreams in Polar fog' (Photo: Defence Images)

His remarks came shortly after Norway's former leader, the 74-year-old Thorvald Stoltenberg, put forward 13 ideas for military co-operation including a Nato-style mutual defence pact. Nordic foreign ministers are to debate the text in April amid growing strategic interest in the High North for energy and trade reasons. UK Prime Minister David Cameron will next week also host a meeting of Nordic and Baltic state leaders on the topic.

The US ambassador predicted that the Nordic mutual defence clause is the least likely to fly.

"Officials including the PM's foreign policy advisor and the MFA's [foreign ministry's] political director have privately indicated to us that there is little or no interest in a Nordic solidarity declaration in the GON [government of Norway]," he reported, despite the fact the Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, is Thorvald Stoltenberg's son.

On joint surveillance flights in Icelandic airspace, he added: "Surprisingly, Norwegian officials have been very critical of this proposal ... expressing strong dislike for this item."

On diplomatic and consular co-operation, Mr Whitney said: "Co-operation between foreign services is much more difficult and will likely be limited to countries where none of the Nordics have representation now."

The cable was not entirely negative. In his concluding remarks, the ambassador said: "Joint Nordic transport capabilities, medical teams, amphibious units, a stabilization task force and maritime awareness could be important contributions to UN, Nato or US missions."

A separate dispatch published on Thursday displays the closeness of Swedish-US relations at a time when Swedish authorities are pursuing WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange on sexual assault charges.

In the cable, dated July 2009, Swedish diplomat Jonas Wendel told the US charge d'affaires in Stockholm, Robert J. Silverman, about sensitive issues in an upcoming EU foreign ministers meeting.

Mr Wendel spoke in detail about the position of fellow US ally Britain on Iran sanctions, but maintained some discretion. Speaking of whether or not the EU will use tough language against Russia, he said the move is being opposed by the "usual members," but did not name them.

The Wendel dispatch comes after Swedish diplomat Johan Frisell in 2008, in a previously leaked US cable, dished up painful details on internal EU divisions on the Georgia-Russia war. The revelation raised eyebrows among some senior EU officials because internal EU debates are supposed to be kept secret.

On the plus side, Mr Wendel indicated that EU countries are capable of sticking together in times of crisis.

Commenting on whether EU states might withdraw their ambassadors from Iran after it detained a British embassy worker, the cable said: "Solidarity among EU members is strong, and if the discussion is emotionally charged, then the ministers might agree to a withdrawal."

For his part, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt in a dispatch dated December 2009 and published in December 2010 gave an interesting opinion on the newly-minted EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

Mr Bildt said that he "knew and liked" Ms Ashton. "He described her as a 'street fighter' with a disciplined mind for bureaucratic battles. While competent and intelligent, Bildt described her as having 'no foreign affairs knowledge'."

Nordic pact heightens tension with Russia

The Kremlin says a new Nordic defence pact is “directed against Russia” and amounts to a “confrontational approach” on the Ukraine crisis.

Facial-recognition moratorium back on EU agenda

Members of the committee on civil liberties widely supported a moratorium on facial recognition for law enforcement purposes, just after the EU data watchdog backed earlier this week the ban on this technology in public spaces.

EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

MEPs in January 2019 agreed to a rule change in a bid for greater transparency. The rules included requiring committee chairs to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists. EUobserver spoke to six chairs, who haven't done so yet.

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Eminent women appeal for EU help on Palestine

West Bank annexation "was conceived almost entirely by men" and will crush the "dignity and rights" of Palestinian women still further, a group of 40 women leaders have said.

News in Brief

  1. EU grants Remdesivir conditional authorisation
  2. French prime minister and government resign
  3. France lied on Nato naval clash, Turkey claims
  4. EU highlights abuses in recent Russia vote
  5. Belgium bids to host EU mask stockpile
  6. France shamed on refugees by European court
  7. French and Dutch police take down criminal phone network
  8. EU launches infringement case on Covid-19 cancelled trips

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Feature

The 150 random French citizens advising Macron

Some 150 randomly-picked men and women make up Emmanuel Macron's Citizens' Climate Convention. This week Macron invited them to the Élysée Palace and promised - nearly - all of their wishes would come true .

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us