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Foredrag i Oslo Militære Samfund
mandag 18. oktober 2010
Ambassador Barry B. White
US Ambassador in Norway

Foto: Kjell Huslid, OMS




I want to thank the Oslo Military Society for giving me the honor of appearing before you to discuss the Obama Administration‘s Foreign Policy, along with a brief update on U.S. politics as we look ahead to the November 2 mid-term elections in the U.S.   At the conclusion of my remarks, I will be pleased to take your questions.

I feel very privileged to be the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway and to have the confidence of the President to be his representative in Norway and to present his foreign policy. As everyone in this room knows, Norway and the United States have had and maintain a very close relationship, which began when the first emigrants left Stavanger for the U.S. in 1825. Recently, a Norwegian minister told me that Norway is a country with over 9 million people, half of whom live in the U.S. Indeed, my Deputy Chief of Mission, Jim Heg, is a direct descendent of the famous Norwegian who was a U.S. Civil War hero, Colonel Heg, who led a division of Norwegians on the Union side,

The U.S.-Norway relationship is based on shared values and principles, including respect for human rights, democracy and equality, as well as a deep and enduring mutual trust founded during the home front resistance in Norway during World War II and the formation of NATO in 1949. Our strong bilateral relationship and our joint trust in both NATO and the United Nations have deepened under the leadership of President Obama.

The on-going cooperative projects between the U.S. and Norway, are too numerous to list completely, but they include NATO and UN missions, periodic exercises, prepositioning of critical material, cross training of personnel and multiple procurement programs including the recently delivered C130Js, the Joint Strike Fighter program, and the protector system. As a point of reference, Norwegian military members use approximately 500 training billets per year in the US, some jointly taught, ranging from short one week courses to programs lasting more than a year. I have yet to meet a Norwegian pilot that hasn’t trained in the U.S. or a Norwegian Special Forces Soldier that has not exercised or fought with a U.S. unit at some time during his or her career.   Indeed, one of the highlights of my first year in Norway was getting a back seat ride from Lt. Colonel “Junior” Gunnerud, a Norwegian Air Force pilot, on a Norwegian F-16 flying out of Bodø, and that was one terrific experience.

Tonight, I would like to highlight one operation that is ongoing. On September 27th, the Norwegian diesel electric submarine, “UT-VAR”, arrived at Naval Station Norfolk for a port visit. The arrival of UTVAER marks the first time a Royal Norwegian submarine has pulled into a United States port. Along with the highly capable Norwegian frigate, FRIDTJOF NANSEN, the UTVAER, one of Norway’s six ULA class submarines, will participate in a major training exercise with the USS Enterprise Carrier Strike Group giving the Battle Group training opportunity with both a diesel submarine and a top notch modern frigate. Although the Bergen press has referred to this exercise as a case of David versus Goliath, the anti-submarine exercise, conducted throughout the Atlantic, will give the U.S. Navy the chance to train with something it does not have in its inventory – a small capable diesel submarine.

Shifting gears to current US Foreign Policy under the Obama Administration, I may be somewhat biased, but I believe that President Obama will go down in history as a transformative president. In one of his first speeches on foreign policy, given to the U.N., he outlined four basic tenets of his foreign policy. First, the U.S. will engage in a renewed multi-lateral approach to foreign policy, by engaging allies to share in the solutions to problems, by working cooperatively with the U.N., NATO and other multi-national organizations and by not being afraid to engage in negotiations and conversations with enemies, while still retaining the right to exercise, in conjunction with our allies, the military and economic power of the U.S., when necessary and appropriate. Second, he will work to eliminate the threat of nuclear proliferation and toward the reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. Third, he recognizes the science behind global climate change and the threat it poses to our future and indeed the future of the planet. He has pledged to work to reduce the adverse effects on our environment caused by human activity. Fourth, he will work for economic stability throughout the world and in particular for the economic development of developing countries. President Obama recognizes the need to improve the economic well being of the millions of people around the world who live in poverty, without proper nutrition and health care. Accordingly, he just signed a Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development.

In his most recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2010, President Obama discussed what the current US Administration has done to address the challenges we face in the world community. The President’s primary focus has been on rescuing the economy from potential catastrophe. I am not sure that people really understand how close the U.S. and international financial markets came to total collapse. America has joined with nations around the world to combat this financial crisis and to spur growth, and to renew demand that could restart job creation. Toward this end, he has worked with nations around the world for international coordination to stabilize the financial markets and stimulate economic growth. In a world where prosperity is more diffuse, we must broaden our circle of cooperation to include emerging economies — economies from every corner of the globe.

In an effort to improve common security, America is waging a more effective fight against al Qaeda, while winding down the war in Iraq.  Since President Obama took office, the United States has removed nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq.  We have done so responsibly, as Iraqis have transitioned to lead responsibility for the security of their country. Now, we are focused on building a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while keeping our commitment to remove the rest of our troops by the end of next year. The future of Iraq now rests where it belongs – with the people of Iraq. We and our allies can and will provide guidance and assistance, but the Iraqis, as they should, are now taking control of their future.

In Afghanistan, we are working as part of ISAF and NATO to pursue a strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and security forces, so that a transition to Afghan responsibility can begin next July.  Norway has been part of ISAF and a stalwart partner in this effort and, with the new 2011 Norwegian Budget, I am happy to say a continuing partner. The steady force level, which has been funded for another year, will provide needed support for the important ISAF mission.   NATO encourages and looks forward to a positive decision from Norway to return Norwegian Special Forces units to ISAF.   Recently, I was present at NATO Headquarters in Brussels at a meeting with Admiral Stavridis and other U.S. Ambassador’s to European countries. Admiral Stavridis noted that while the press obsessively has focused on the problems in Afghanistan, there are many positive things happening there that go unreported. Although he noted that there still are significant challenges in Afghanistan and that there is much work to be done and that there will be difficult days, months, and years ahead, he pointed out some positive examples of the slow steady work that is being done and signs that patience and perseverance may be rewarded in the end.

Tonight, I would like to focus on three areas. First, I want to outline President Obama’s efforts toward achieving a nuclear free world. Second, I want to highlight Arctic cooperation and the importance of the Arctic to the United States. Third, I will discuss President Obama’s newly signed Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development that centers U.S. development policy on the promotion of sustainable economic growth.

After addressing these foreign policy challenges, I will discuss the upcoming mid-term elections in the U.S. and what it may mean for U.S. politics.

President Obama has made it clear that his goal is a world without nuclear weapons. He clearly laid out his commitment to this goal in Prague last year. This is clearly aligned with Norway’s positions. Last week I attended an international conference in Oslo on “A Nuclear-free world; Nuclear Disarmament Strategies, Non-Proliferation and Export Control”, at which Foreign Minister Støre praised President Obama for providing momentum to move forward this agenda and for establishing the long range goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Since that speech the Administration has taken steps in four areas: reducing nuclear arsenals, promoting non-proliferation, making nuclear energy safe, and combating nuclear terrorism.

One of President Obama’s first achievements was to join with Russia to sign the most comprehensive arms control treaty in decades, reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy.  The new START Treaty with Russia reduces limits on strategic offensive warheads by approximately 30% and limits on strategic delivery vehicles by over 50% compared with previous treaties. The Treaty is a continuation of the international arms control and nonproliferation framework that the United States has worked hard to foster and strengthen for the last 50 years.   It also represents a significant step forward in building a stable, cooperative relationship with Russia. President Obama transmitted the New START Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification this past May. Although it is the President’s desire to obtain ratification before year-end, this may not be possible. I will discuss some of the politics behind ratification shortly.

President Obama’s work on nuclear non-proliferation resulted in the adoption of a formal document at the 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York. This achievement demonstrated the NPT parties’ commitment to the Treaty and their agreement on steps to strengthen the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. The positive and constructive tone of the Conference helped to further the agenda set forth by President Obama in Prague.

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, President Obama offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. However, he also underscored the need for Iran to be held accountable if it fails to meet those responsibilities.  Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program. The Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

The United States’ new approach to nonproliferation energized the Review Conference. The Obama Administration took clear steps at the conference, including transparency on the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and pledging $50 million to the Peaceful Uses Initiative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  President Obama will use the momentum generated at the NPT RevCon at the upcoming Conference on Disarmament, in the UN First Committee, and with the IAEA Board of Governors, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In addition, President Obama held the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. this past spring. Not since 1945 has a U.S. President hosted a gathering of so many Heads of State and Government. The Summit highlighted the global threat posed by nuclear terrorism and the need to work together to secure nuclear material and prevent illicit nuclear trafficking and nuclear terrorism.  Participants reached a consensus about the nature of the threat and agreed to a collective effort to secure nuclear material by the end of 2013.

We know that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups seek the capability to build a nuclear weapon.  At the summit, leaders pledged to take full responsibility for the security of nuclear materials under their control, to continue to evaluate the threat, to improve the security of nuclear materials, and to exchange best practices and practical solutions…   Also at the Summit, the President spoke about the importance of extending the G8 Global Partnership beyond 2012 and called on nations to join the U.S. in committing additional funds to combat the global WMD threat.  The G8 partnership is another forum where the U.S. and Norway work together to address managing nuclear material. Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg participated at the Summit, given Norway’s active role on nuclear safety issues, in particular in the Arctic.

Turning to the Arctic, it is clear that the Arctic and U.S. Arctic policy are attracting greater attention throughout the U.S. Government, including from Secretary of State Clinton. Prior to my coming to Post as Ambassador, both President Obama and Secretary Clinton advised me to pay attention to the Arctic. Of note, Secretary Clinton related her very positive memories of her visit as a senator to Svalbard with Senator McCain. I had the opportunity to travel to Svalbard with a Congressional delegation last June. It was a very interesting trip. I had the opportunity to view first-hand and up close the effects of global climate change in the Arctic.


The current U.S. Arctic policy states: “The United States is an Arctic nation, with varied and compelling interests in that region,” and it commits the Administration to encourage the U.S. Senate to accede to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. We already follow its provisions. I am working along with many military and political leaders in the U.S. to obtain senate ratification of this convention that was negotiated by President Regan. The directive also notes that the U.S. has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and will safeguard those interests. As was reinforced during my discussion last month with the European Command Leadership in Stuttgart, the US is committed to a peaceful Arctic. This will become increasingly important as Climate changes and economic development will undoubtedly increase human presence in the Arctic. Neither the United States nor any of the other Arctic countries want a military build-up in the Arctic. However, we must continue to develop, through the Arctic Council, additional channels of communication and clear rules for operating in the Arctic. Teaming with the other Arctic Nations, we must ensure we identify and support the “soft security” needs in the region, including critical areas such as search and rescue, transportation safety, accident prevention, environmental protection, resources management, and fisheries preservation.


We do not see a geopolitical scramble for the Arctic that cannot be solved within existing frameworks. Instead, we see the Arctic as an area where the desire for productive collaboration prevails among many stakeholders. Norway and Russia have already demonstrated their willingness to cooperate in the Arctic within the existing frameworks, with the signing of the new border delimitation agreement – A milestone agreement and hopefully a precursor of further cooperative negotiations between Russia and other nations, including the U.S.

The United States views the Arctic Council as the primary forum for Arctic issues. The Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) task force of the Arctic Council, co-chaired by U.S. and Russia, held a successful meeting in Norway this past May. The task force is making progress on preparing an instrument on cooperation that can be signed by the eight Arctic States at the 2011 Arctic Council Ministerial in Copenhagen. The Arctic and in particular, the Barents, will undoubtedly become an increasingly busy place. It will be very important that, as the necessary economic interests in that area increase, the military activity is tailored to meet safely this expansion without escalation.


The final policy point that I will address is the President’s new Policy Directive on Global Development. On September 15, 2010 President Obama signed a Presidential Policy directive underscoring that development is not only vital to U.S. national security but is also a strategic, economic, and moral imperative.  The directive sets out new policy objectives, an
enhanced operational model, and a modern architecture for U.S. development efforts. Through the Presidential Policy Directive, President Obama has made clear that sustainable development is a long-term proposition, and progress depends on the choices of political leaders and the quality of institutions in developing countries.  Where leaders govern responsibly, set in place good policies, and make investments conducive to development, sustainable outcomes can be achieved.  Where those conditions are absent, it is difficult to engineer sustained progress, no matter how good our intentions or the extent of our engagement.


The first pillar of this policy is ECONOMIC GROWTH. The United States will enhance its focus on broad-based economic growth and democratic governance, and concentrate resources, policy tools, and engagement in support of select countries and sub-regions where the conditions are right to sustain progress. The second pillar is INNOVATION:  The United States will increase investments in development-focused innovation by seeking out and scaling up technologies such as vaccines for neglected diseases, weather-resistant seed varieties, and clean energy technologies.  Additionally, the government will increase public funding and secure more private funding for development-focused research and increase the utilization of science and technology in developing countries and will invest in systemic solutions for service delivery, public administration, and other government functions where capacity exists.  Where partner governments set in place systems with high standards of transparency, good governance, and accountability, the United States will align new investments with country priorities, and work through national institutions rather than around them.
Now, let me shift over to a few words about the upcoming U.S. Mid-Term Elections…

Thank you again for the opportunity to share my views on U.S. foreign policy priorities and a prognosis for the U.S. Congressional elections. I am pleased to take your questions.