Head of Delegation Christian Tybring-Gjedde (Progress Party), Deputy Head Liv Signe Navarsete (Centre Party) and delegation members Trond Helleland (Conservative Party), Hårek Elvenes (Conservative Party) and Erlend Wiborg (Progress Party) all attended the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA).
Similarities and contrasts in security policy thinking
The forum’s purpose is to identify similarities and differences in security policy thinking on the two sides of the Atlantic, and to explore how the United States and Europe can find common ground when they disagree. Discussion as usual was broad-ranging, with 10 general topics addressed over two busy days. Ongoing challenges involving Russia, Iran and China were discussed in detail, as were security issues in the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Pacific region.
“Everything is connected,” Ms Navarsete says. “The security frameworks that Norway operates in become clearer when you hear experts discussing topics that are important in their own right and even more so in the larger context.”
The past year’s developments
Two of the general topics focused specifically on developments occurring in the past year. U.S. experts and members of Congress discussed how American foreign and security policy will be affected by November’s U.S. congressional elections, in which the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives. On certain issues, such as President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, there is much disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. Support for NATO, however, is strong across the U.S. political spectrum, and it was widely suggested that President Trump’s occasional criticism of the alliance will not change this.
A separate topic was U.S. trade policy, including President Trump’s introduction earlier this year of tariff barriers against both allied and non-allied countries. A number of European delegation members raised objections to the tariffs with the U.S. government officials present.
“More than bullets and bombs”
“This year’s forum made it clear that security and defence policy is about more than bullets and bombs,” says Mr Tybring-Gjedde. “It says a lot that the Trump administration’s trade policy is up for debate at a security policy forum.”
Norway’s ambassador to the United States, Kåre R. Aas, welcomed the Storting delegation to his residence for a working dinner on Monday 10 December. Two outside guests also participated: political commentator Boris Epshteyn, who previously worked for President Trump as a communications officer, and political researcher Heather A. Conley, who unlike Mr Epshteyn is highly critical of Mr Trump despite her Republican point of view. While Mr Epshteyn believes a president’s task is to put his own country first, Ms Conley thinks Mr Trump is sowing doubt about U.S. alliances in a way harmful to U.S. interests.
“For the NATO PA delegation, an important part of travelling is meeting people with different perspectives,” says Mr Tybring-Gjedde. “Whether you agree or disagree with Trump’s policy, it is crucial for allies of the United States to meet people who support him and to see how they think. So dinner with Ambassador Aas, with a lively discussion around the table, was certainly a highlight of the visit.”
The Storting’s delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly