US President Donald Trump is not happy with Norway's defence spending, a message that US ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite has been eager to communicate to a number of top-ranking officials in the parliament's foreign and defence committee, the newspaper Klassekampen reported.
“He has made himself very clear and he is not satisfied”, deputy chair of the foreign and defence Committee Christian Tybring-Gjedde of the Progress Party told the newspaper.
Given Norway's importance as Russia's neighbour (the countries share a 195.7-kilometre, or 121.6 mi, land border in the extreme north), the US wants Oslo to boost its defence expenditure to the level of at least 2 percent of its GDP. In 2018, Norway's defence spending amounted to 1.62 percent.
“He was clear in his message and doesn't accept the reasoning we have come up with. They point out that Norway is the only NATO country that shared a border with Russia and doesn't reach the target spending of 2 percent of GDP”, Tybring-Gjedde explained.
According to Tybring-Gjedde, the US has voiced its concerns over Norway's defence expenditure for a long time.
“What is new is that the Americans are now tougher about the possible repercussions”, Tybring-Gjedde said, once again highlighting Norway's proximity to Russia.
Hårek Elvenes of the ruling Conservative party confirmed that he'd met Braithwaite in mid-August. By his own admission, the ambassador reiterated the US expectation that NATO's 2014 decision about the 2 percent target spending taken at the Wales summit will be taken seriously.
“He emphasised the seriousness of the security policy situation and the limitations of the US responsibilities in security policy across the entire world”, Elvenes stressed.
According to Klassekampen, Braithwaite also met with Centre Party defence spokeswoman Liv Signe Navarsete and foreign and defence committee chair Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labour Party.
“Norway is both a founding member of NATO and a key member of the alliance, and is financially capable of meeting these commitments. I have emphasised that it is important for Norway to show leadership and reach the two-percent goal well before 2024”, Braithwaite said.
In June 2018, Donald Trump sent a letter to Prime Minister Erna Solberg, pointing out that Norway is the only NATO country with a border with Russia that does not have a clear plan to raise the defence expenditure to 2 percent of its GDP.
According to Elvenes, the defence allocations have increased in recent years, but the further steps are to be elaborated in the next long-term plan which is yet to be adopted.
When it comes to defence spending per capita, however, Norway has consistently ranked in the top ten. The other NATO countries that border Russia (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) all have significantly lower per capita GDPs. Norway may only have a population of less than 5.5 million, but Norwegians are among the wealthiest Europeans and their government can boast a sizeable 'nest egg' of its own: it controls a sovereign wealth fund worth over a trillion dollars. Norway was one of the first NATO countries to show interest in the F-35A Lightning II, Lockheed Martin's stealth multirole fighter.