President Donald Trump welcomed Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Wednesday to reaffirm the genial relationship between the two nations, with the president doubling down on the country's commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an institution of which Norway is a founding member.
“The prime minister and I are both committed to strengthening the NATO alliance,” Trump remarked in front of the domestic and foreign press during a joint presser in front of the East Room. “Norway has made contributions to NATO-led missions in Afghanistan where we are doing very well. It's been turned around.”
Solberg, the leader of Norway's conservative party, remarked the U.S. is Norway's “closest ally inside NATO,” citing U.S. military personnel training as a clear indicator of America's commitment to the group. However, Trump has been critical of the international body in the past, chiding members during a summit last May.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trump said in Brussels.
The president put pressure on other nations to up their spending on several sectors, especially regarding international defense, raising eyebrows from allied nations as to if Trump was for NATO long term. (Notable, too, is that the 2 percent defense spending benchmark provision that NATO nations are slated to meet applies to their own — not allies' — military.)
Walking back those remarks, Trump sought to placate NATO allies' concerns, stating in a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in April the alliance is “no longer obsolete,” as he had claimed as a candidate.
Another contention exists on the Paris Accord, with Trump embracing his critical rhetoric the global environmental agreement was weak on jobs after being questioned by reporters. The Norwegian world leader was quick to interject on Trump's answer, stressing that Norway has found a balance between competition and conservation.
“Never miss a good opportunity, with good environmental points,” Solberg warned the room.
Still, Solberg and Trump seemed to have more mutual end goals.
Both world leaders offered mutual praise of their financial relationship. Trump labeled Norway “a great customer, a great ally and a great friend” due to the continued purchase of American military hardware, including F-35s. Prime Minister Solberg then estimated Norway’s financial investment translates to roughly 470,000 jobs.
“Norway's commitment to mutually beneficial commerce is a model for other nations and it really is. Amazing country,” Trump said. “I'll look forward to forging a stronger economic relationship between the United States and Norway, growing this record of success, with even more investment and more jobs and more job creation.”
Prime Minister Solberg agreed, saying that an economically thriving America is beneficial for Norwegian prosperity, citing the mass import of the environmentally conscious automobile brand Tesla.
Both nations later highlighted their mutual commitment to counter-terrorism.
Trump offered that Norway was “a vital and valued member of the campaign to defeat ISIS.” This convivial relationship is not unexpected, as Norway has been a long-standing ally of the United States on several points, including counter-terrorism efforts. According to the State Department, the Scandinavian country is an active member of the Counter-ISIL Coalition and has deployed trainers in Iraq in the support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Back in 2016, the Norwegian government deployed a force contribution to Jordan for training, advising and supporting Syrian groups against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; the nation's contribution is now mandated through March 2018.
Trump also fielded questions about the possibility of meeting with special counsel Robert Mueller, the necessity of a border wall in any upcoming immigration legislation, and the U.S.'s relationship with Russia.
It’s likely Trump will attempt to tap his NATO allies in his continuing push for a denuclearized North Korea as the peninsula’s Winter Olympics fast approaches in February. Echoing his criticism from the past year, the president called on Norway to increase its defense spending in hopes to combat shared threats like the DPRK.
“I encourage Norway to follow through on its commitment to meet the 2 percent of GDP defense spending obligation so that together we can confront the full range of threats facing our nation,” Trump said. “And I believe Norway will get there quite soon.”