Norwegians are becoming less inclined to cooperate with United States of America, their traditional ally, and are in favour of closer ties with Europe, according to a survey conducted by the Oslo-based Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
A third of the Norwegians surveyed (32.4 percent) want the Norwegian government to cooperate less with the US, on par with respondents saying they wanted Oslo to cooperate with Russia (35.4 percent) and China (36.8 percent). The figures indicate an increased scepticism toward superpowers in general, as the share of Norwegians advocating less cooperation with the UK, Germany, France or Japan were nearly half as high.
During the survey, Norwegians were asked to rate the US’ power and influence as a threat to Norway on a scale from one to five, with five defined as “an extremely high threat”. A staggering 70 percent responded with three or more, while only around 10 percent believed the US’ power and influence posed an extremely low threat to Norway. Again, Norwegians appeared to be as afraid of US influence as they are of China's growth and tensions with Russia.
At the same time, 60 percent of the Norwegians were positive towards NATO and wanted to make it less reliant on the US, even at the cost of higher defence budgets.
The NUPI researchers described this as a “growing interest in seeing Norway and Europe take more responsibility” for themselves in foreign policy.
“We have traditionally had a very good relationship with the US, but we see that it’s in the process of changing,” NUPI researcher Åsmund Weltzien told the newspaper Klassekampen. “That’s not so strange, given the attention around President Donald Trump and everything he says and does."
According to his fellow researcher Øyvind Svendsen, Norwegians want to preserve multilateralism and global cooperation, which have been the core values of Norwegian foreign policy. Donald Trump, he argued, doesn't show enough commitment to the two, pulling the US out of trade agreements and cutting support for international organisations such as the World Health Organisation.
Political scientist Asle Toje argued that the scepticism towards the US isn't a lasting phenomenon, stressing that Norwegians strong support for NATO despite their frostiness with the US, which is a key NATO member. Toje also stressed that Norway’s foreign policy is only to a small degree based on public opinion, whereas top Norwegian politicians still call the US the country's closest ally.
As if in support of Toje's stance, the US Embassy in Oslo stated that the US’ relation to Norway “is one of our most valued in the world”, stressing decades of defence cooperation through NATO and ties going back to the mass Norwegian emigration to the US.
Tellingly, 36.7 percent of those surveyed still want more cooperation with the US, as did 30 percent with Russia and 27.9 percent with China. A majority of Norwegians supported good economic relations with Russia, coupled with a “tough policy on foreign policy issues”.