EU should be Norway's plan B
11. juli 2018
(Published in VG, July 11th 2018 - translated from Norwegian by the Author. Original at VG)
What does Norway do if Trump effectively pulls the US security guarantee? The foreign policy situation is a slow-motion nightmare. Norway has not been in such insecure waters for decades.
Trump's contempt for NATO, the EU, free trade and alliances has been known for many years. The Iran Agreement and the Paris Agreement are now historical footnotes. Trump was surprisingly a little cautious at first, but now takes on more and more power. The NATO summit in 2017 was no celebration. It was reported that Trump considered leaving NATO and failed to mention the United States's commitment to collective security for the first time in history. The situation has since worsened. Administration members change at a pace we have never seen before. The few trustworthy ministers are out or on their way out. Foreign Minister Tillerson has been replaced by loyalist Pompeo. Security Advisor McMaster has been replaced with an obedient Bolton. Chief of Staff Kelly is on his way out. Defense Minister Mattis is marginalized, if not on his way out. We do not get any help from the FBI Russia investigation. Opinion polls for Trump are improving. Trump has the pedal to the metal, the engine at full throttle, without safety valves or brakes.
The G7 summit in June was disastrous. Trump hounded his allies. He has since continue harassing Angela Merkel. A global trade war is already underway, deeply harmful to Norway. Soon after, he was thoroughly deceived by North Korea without being aware of it. He promised to stop military exercises in South Korea, in exchange for beautiful pictures and empty promises. It seems clear that North Korea has no intention of following up.
What can we expect from the 29th NATO Summit 11-12. July? In a speech in Great Falls, Montana, June 5, we got a taste. We were told that "they are killing us with NATO" and that "Putin is just fine". It is not certain that Trump will sign NATO's final communique, a powerful signal. However, the probability is unpleasantly high that Trump will even slam the door in such a way that he will be effectively pulling the United States out of NATO. Legally it is Congress that can terminate the NATO Treaty. But as commander in chief, he can effectively undermine NATO.
We can only fear the Trump-Putin Summit on July 16th. The now dominant right-wing fraction in the United States has become more pro-Russian for many years. Allies are not included in the planning of the summit. Congressmen have been to Moscow on the US Independence Day 4th of July, and have spoken about sanctions relief. Putin is an experienced player and has the North Korea Summit as a template. Putin knows that Trump must be successful at all costs, and is willing to give significant concessions for trinkets. We can expect useless promises from Putin such as solemn concessions to avoid political influence in the West, vapid promises on Ukraine, or an extension of the New START Agreement of minor importance. What can Trump give in return? All options will be harmful to Norway. At the top of the Russian wish list is sanctions relief, then diplomatic recognition of the annexation of the Crimea, followed by halting of American participation in exercises in Europe.
It is possible that NATO this time only gets a severe dent, not a terminal wound, and that Trump's concessions to Putin will be less important. However, Trump has good chances of being re-elected. It's just a matter of time before Trump achieves his long-term goal of weakening NATO and free trade.
Norway must be prepared for the security situation turning rapidly for the worse. We must have a plan B if worse comes to worst.
In the event that NATO's security guarantee disappears in practice, we must immediately tie ourselves closer to Europe. An application for EU membership will be unavoidable, even as embarrassing it will be to explain it to the voters. Sweden and Finland are currently sleeping in the same defense bed. With Norway in the EU we can go to bed with them. In that case, too, Brexit will probably vanish, or a British EEA solution will be forthcoming at express speed, which we can not help accepting either. We must also contribute to a west-to-east axis from the UK to the Nordic-Baltic countries. Our French friends represent Europe's only independent nuclear umbrella, and the closest possible connection to France must be considered. The Baltic is the new West Berlin, and Trump is no Kennedy.