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Barth Eide and SNP NATO debate


Angus Robertson has highlighted a recent meeting with Espen Barth Eide, the Norwegian Foreign Minister. The implication is that Barth Eide supports Robertson's proposal that an independent Scotland should be in NATO. The capital city which is most likely to want to see Scotland in NATO is not Oslo, but Washington. It is therefore interesting to note that Barth Eide has been criticised for being too close to America.



Wikileaks published a personal report on Barth Eide by Benson Whitney, the US Ambassador to Norway. This says that Barth Eide had supported American interests by helping to prevent a Norwegian veto on plans for missile defence within NATO. He pushed for the deployment of Norwegian troops to Afghanistan and he intervened in a controversial decision about a new site for the US Embassy. Whitney’s report indicated that he had some doubts about the extent to which Barth Eide was completely supportive, but that he would be able to tell how much the Norwegian was on America’s side by the way he handled the purchase of a new aircraft. In due course, Barth Eide was instrumental in ensuring that Norway bought the very expensive US Joing Strike Fighter rather than a Swedish alternative. He tipped off the US Embassy about the decision before it was made public.


Wikileaks also revealed that Barth Eide gave private assurances to the US Embassy about Norway’s continued support for nuclear weapons in Europe. Foreign Ministers from Norway and four other countries had written to the NATO Secretary General calling for a discussion of NATO’s nuclear policy. But Barth Eide played down the significance of the move. A report from the US Embassy in Oslo on 26 February 2010 said: “Barth Eide strongly criticized news reports which portrayed the initiative as an effort to remove all nuclear weapons from Europe. Barth Eide said news reports were ‘completely flawed’, adding that deterrence remained an absolute core NATO competence”.






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

Wikileaks 17/7/2008 US Embassy Oslo http://cablegategame.com/cable/08OSLO406

These comments align with more forward leaning ones expressed by Deputy Minister of Defense Barth-Eide who has privately given every signal that the F-35 will be selected. In fact, in a candid conversation with USAFE Commander General Brady on 23 October, Barth Eide said: "If you believe you have the best aircraft, trust the process. Do not overplay your hand."

Wikileaks 29/10/2008 US Embassy Oslo http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=08OSLO585&q=brady

Meeting with DCM, PolOff and A/DAO before the February 26 release of the joint letter from five Foreign Ministers to NATO SYG Rasmussen calling for a discussion on NATO's nuclear policy at the upcoming Tallinn meeting, Deputy Minister of Defense Espen BarthEide strongly criticized news reports which portrayed the initiative as an effort to remove all nuclear weapons from Europe. Barth Eide said news reports were "completely flawed," adding that deterrence remained an absolute core NATO competence. He said he was pleased that Secretary Clinton had emphasized the importance of deterrence several times in her January 22 speech during the NATO new Strategic Concept seminar, adding that while there was "nothing wrong" with out of area operations, but we also need to remember key NATO's deterrence capabilities.