In attendance representing the United States were Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), co-chairs of the Friends of Norway Caucus,
Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX) andMichael Grimm (R-NY), and legislative staff from a number of Member offices. The Norwegian side was represented by a delegation led by Peter Gitmark (Conservative Party), founder and chair of the Friends of America Caucus, the largest caucus group in the Norwegian Parliament. Defense Attache Trond Grytting and Minister Counselor Berit Enge participated from the Embassy.
Rear Admiral Grytting briefed the group on Norway’s recent decision to purchase about 50 of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter planes, which he said was an important part of the “significant modernization of the Norwegian military.” He noted that the Norwegian navy and coast guard have been fully modernized in recent years, in light of the increased strategic importance of the High North. Adm. Grytting also discussed Norway’s interest in the Joint Strike Missile. “We want a fifth-generation weapon in the F-35, which is a fifth-generation airplane,” he said.
Rep. Granger noted that the F-35 program has been important to America, too. “It’s important to our Navy, to our Marines,” she said.
The High North, Grytting said, is the “most strategic area for Norway,” with oil, gas, fisheries, the environment and transport being the biggest issues. Calling the High North “an area for cross-sector and cross-national cooperation,” he praised Russia for its cooperation in the Barents Sea in recent years, expressing hope for continued cooperation between the nations as opportunities in the High North continue to present themselves. “Russia has a lot at stake in the High North, and so does Norway,” he said.
The attendees then discussed a wide range of topics concerning U.S., Norwegian and international politics. Rep. Larsen expressed optimism for the U.S. economy, saying, “Our economy is growing — but it’s not growing as fast as it can. We’re going to have to make some difficult decisions. Eventually we will get it done right, but there’s no textbook for this one.”
The Norwegian delegation discussed the potential weaknesses of a small economy that has its own currency, although so far Norway has avoided most of the problems facing much of Europe.
The Norwegian delegation invited their U.S. counterparts to visit Norway, a suggestion that was met with enthusiasm. US lawmakers and their staff are permitted to visit Norway under the auspices of the Norwegian-American Parliamentary Program, and the leadership of the two caucus groups expressed their hope that exchanges between the two groups could become an annual tradition.
Published: February 24, 2020