Cablegate: Norway's Deputy Minister of Defense, Espen Barth Eide, Power in Norway's Mod and Rising Star in the Labor Party
DE RUEHNY #0406/01 2030953
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 210953Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY OSLO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6923
INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 2443
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 7989
RUEHRK/AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK 0843
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 3289
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0291
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000406
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2018
TAGS: CIA INRA INRO PGOV PINR PREL NO
SUBJECT: NORWAY'S DEPUTY MINISTER OF DEFENSE, ESPEN BARTH EIDE, POWER IN NORWAY'S MOD AND RISING STAR IN THE LABOR PARTY
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission, Kevin M Johnson for reasons 1.4 b and d
1. (C) Summary. Ministry of Defense State Secretary, Espen Barth Eide is one of the more powerful politicians in the current GON despite his deputy minister portfolio. His ties to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, think tanks, NGOs and the UN as well as his influential current position likely will result in either a ministerial position in a future Labor government or a high ranking UN or EU position. Barth Eide is particularly interested in UN peacekeeping operations and may be interested in a future UN position. End Summary.
--Power Behind the Throne--
2. (C) Ideologically on the more conservative side of the Labor Party, Barth Eide is one of the most experienced and influential government figures. After the 2005 national election many observers thought that PM Jens Stoltenberg meant to appoint Barth Eide as a State Secretary in the MFA, but after being forced to appoint a weak defense minister, Stoltenberg moved Barth Eide to the MOD. Barth Eide is regarded as the force which steers the defense ministry and is an eloquent and knowledgeable speaker and writer on defense and security matters. He is often quoted in the press, more so than the Defense Minister, Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen. Strom-Erichsen was appointed minister without any background in defense matters and has relied on Barth Eide to be her subject matter and policy expert while she deals with political issues. Barth Eide has wide leeway in determining what areas to focus on and is self-confident in determining priorities.
3. (C) His current position as deputy minister (or state secretary in the Norwegian term) is the second time he has held that rank. The first was in the MFA from 2000-2001 under then Foreign Minister Thorbjorn Jagland (now President of Parliament). Interspersed between government posts, Barth Eide led the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) 2002-2005, focusing on UN issues and peacekeeping, particularly the Balkans. He also has been a long time supporter of Norwegian membership in the EU, acting as the general secretary for the European Movement from 1991-1993, prior to the failed 1994 referendum on EU membership in Norway. Barth Eide has also been involved in several UN projects, serving as a senior consultant on the UN reform process and on the UN Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change from 2003-2004. Barth Eide has been co-editor of the London Based journal International Peacekeeping and was nominated a "Global Leader of Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum in 2003.
--Interactions with the USG--
4. (C) In his relations with the Embassy, Barth Eide has been difficult to characterize. Barth Eide is a skilled and subtle interagency player who is largely pro-U.S. but should not be trusted to reliably uphold U.S. interests. On several important issues Barth Eide has been helpful, such as missile defense (where he helped prevent a Norwegian veto of NATO plans), the sale of land to the USG for construction of a new embassy building (intervening on touchy real estate issues affecting the U.S. purchase of land for the new embassy) and pushing for Norwegian deployments to Afghanistan. On other issues, such as the decision process on the purchase of new fighter aircraft and the Norwegian approach on cluster munitions, he has hedged his bets. Barth Eide has avoided the gratuitous negative comments about the Bush Administration that other GON figures have made. Barth Eide also takes pains to stress NATO as the cornerstone of GON security policy and the importance of the Norwegian-U.S. relationship. He has given the Embassy good advice on how to approach the GON on several occasions. However, some very senior U.S. officials have felt that he has been hard to pin down on several issues of concern and characterized Barth Eide as "weasily". Senior Norwegian officials, with strong pro-U.S. instincts, have also told the Embassy in private that Barth Eide is not to be relied upon to promote U.S. priorities. One key test of Barth Eide's inclinations will be the MOD recommendation on which fighter plane to purchase, the Joint Strike Fighter or the Saab Gripen.
5. (C) Barth Eide's interest in UN peacekeeping operations is obvious from his resume and he was rumored to be interested in the UN under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations position, given to Alain le Roy. Although it is speculation, several sources in the GON raised the possibility that Barth Eide's desire for this position was behind his push for a deployment of Norwegian troops to Haiti. What is fact is that in the spring of 2008, despite opposition from the head of the security policy section and from uniformed military, Barth Eide pushed for Norway to send a battalion to Haiti in response to a UN request, even asking the U.S. to request such a deployment in an effort to move his reluctant bureaucracy. According to sources in the GON, Barth Eide manipulated the MFA State Secretary Raymond Johansen into stating that FM Stoere supported such a deployment, when Stoere in fact remained uncommitted. MOD sources were shocked and appalled at what they considered as putting one's personal interests ahead of Norway's strategic interests. Ultimately no Norwegian troops were sent to Haiti. Barth Eide's recent trips to India and China also were mentioned as instances where his activities do not necessarily correspond to any Norwegian interests but do burnish his international reputation.
6. (C) Another interest for Barth Eide is the EU. He is a strong proponent of the EU and of the desirability for Norway to join. He is married to a Spaniard, and has studied in Barcelona. He could potentially be interested and eligible for EU or European positions. We judge this to be less likely than Barth Eide aspiring to a position in the UN or as a potential Foreign or Defense Minister in any future Labor governments. Regardless Barth Eide will remain a key figure in the foreign and security policy establishment in Norway. WHITNEY