Cablegate: Norway Standing Alone Against Missile Defense


DE RUEHNY #0072/01 0430902
O 120902Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000072

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2018
B. 2007 OSLO 177

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Kevin M. Johnson, for reasons 1.4b and d

1. (C) Summary: Norway remains opposed to U.S. plans for missile defenses and was the only NATO ally to publicly express skepticism over these plans during the recent Defense Ministerial in Vilnius. Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen told the media that Norway doubts the need for missile defense and believes it could lead to an arms race. Responding to Ambassador Whitneys observation that it is unusual for Norway to block consensus in NATO, Strom-Erichsen stated that the GON has not yet decided on its approach to this issue (including whether to use its veto) at the Foreign Ministerial or the NATO summit in Bucharest. In a February 11 meeting with Ambassador Whitney, MFA State Secretary Raymond Johansen said that the GON is constrained on this issue but wants to frame the issue in such a way that they can keep from having to block it in NATO. The USG should point out that GON persistant and public support for Russias line on missile defense is troubling even if Norway eventually allows U.S. and NATO goals. End Summary

Alone in NATO: Public Opposition to Missile Defense
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2. (SBU) The Norwegian Defense Minister, Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen, was the only Defense Minister to publicly oppose the U.S. plans for missile defenses against long-range missiles during the Vilnius Defense Ministerial. Repeating oft stated doubts over the threat and claiming that this system would create an arms race, Strom-Erichsen appeared surprised that the GON was alone in this public skepticism.

3. (SBU) Missile defense has been a hot issue for the GON, primarily because of the Socialist Lefts (SV) presence in the governing coalition. SV succeeded in inserting a commitment to oppose missile defense plans in the coalitions government platform (the Soria Moria document). Reluctant to break this commitment (and risk splitting the coalition) and generally skeptical of U.S. policies and goals (reftel A), the GON has been vocally opposed to missile defense plans, despite strong USG efforts to present information on the threat and the system, including visits by Ambassador Nuland, General Obering, journalist tours, and extensive outreach by Ambassador Whitney and other embassy officials.

Isolation in NATO Awakens Opposition

4. (SBU) Opposition figures, long quiet on this issue, have seemingly been shocked by Norways isolation in NATO and were very critical of the government. The leader of the Conservative Party, Erna Solberg, stated &outside of Russia itself, no other nation claims that the missile defense system will cause an arms race. Russia knows that the missile defenses are not against them but they use these arguments as a domestic political symbol to show that Russia is a great power. It is dumb for Norway to legitimize these arguments.8 Solberg called for Norway to avoid being the only opponent of missile defense in NATO. Jan Petersen, leader of Parliament,s defense committee and fellow Conservative member, criticized the GON for not knowing that it stood alone on this issue and predicted a shift in policy. In statements to the press, Ambassador Whitney also expressed disappointment that Norway would even consider blocking consensus in NATO and that any claim that the missile defenses were against Russia is not credible.

Possibility of Change?

5. (SBU) In comments after Vilnius Strom-Erichsen took pains to stress that the GONs position on missile defense would be re-evaluated before any upcoming NATO meetings. This was echoed by FM Jonas Gahr Stoere before Vilnius. Both Ministers have consistently stressed the GONs skepticism but also have hinted that if the U.S. concludes agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic, the basic facts would have changed, leading to the need for new discussions in the GON on this issue. Adding some credence to this theory is statements from the Center Partys (the third coalition member) defense spokesman in which he claims the Soria Moria statements on missile defense need to adjust to current realities.

6. (C) Despite a clear desire to keep its current objections, the GON realizes it will have a hard time defending its position if the issue shifts to one of alliance solidarity. Conclusion of the U.S. agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic will negate the main issue and force Norway to defend a situation where half the alliance is covered by missile defenses (including Norway) and the other half is vulnerable. State Secretary Johansen confirmed during his February 11 lunch with Ambassador Whitney that this situation would allow a policy shift. Johansen said that the GON is aiming to frame the discussion in these terms to allow change, stressing that the U.S. agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic are bilateral and that Norway can not influence them and describing the NATO decision as ensuring that all allies are protected.

Comment: Seeking an Escape Hatch....?
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7. (C) If the GON is not able to find any other allies on this issue in NATO (Germany is the main hope for support) PM Stoltenberg, not a strong ideologue or leader, will wish to avoid the unpleasant experience of being alone in opposition to missile defense at Bucharest and will attempt to follow the model laid out by Johansen to escape. Whether this policy will succeed depends on several factors, including how SV would accept such an explanation for the shift in policy. After taking such a strident and public stanse in opposing missile defense it is also unclear how the GON could justify a potential about face to the public.

Broader Implications

8. (C) Ref A noted the need to counter negative trends in bilateral relations. Missile defense is a good place for us to continue to stress the potential cost of Norways policies. Even if Norway eventually accomodates U.S. and NATO priorities on missile defense, the long, public campaign parroting Russias arguments has been damaging, something increasingly noted in Norway and the U.S.

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