Odd Einar Dorum, a Norwegian politician with a resume stretching to the late 1970s, spoke at UND’s Center for Innovation for the better part of an hour Thursday, remarking on Norwegian defense, NATO and President Donald Trump.
He even cracked wise for a short moment, joking about the bond between the U.S. and Norway. Part of the Norwegian-American experience is to think about the past, and he’s got nothing against going to Minot and eating lutefisk, he said, drawing laughs from a group of several dozen attendees.
“But I would also like people to know contemporary Norway,” he said.
Dorum is a former member of Norway’s Parliament, as well as a former justice minister and transportation and communications minister. The lion’s share of his remarks Thursday were about Norway’s relationship with NATO and Russia. He characterized Russia as a quiet, consistent threat with a military that’s been revitalized by President Vladimir Putin. He traced Norway’s relationship with Russia back through the Cold War and all the way to Norway’s membership in NATO in the late 1940s—an alliance he described as critical and deeply dependent on the U.S. for credibility.
“During the Cold War, (Norway) was a peaceful place,” he said. “But if there had not been peace, it would have been close to destruction.”
NATO has been in the spotlight since Trump’s election to the White House. The president previously called NATO “obsolete,” though he since declared his support for the alliance. The president has continued to demand that member nations contribute more to the organization.
“We strongly support NATO,” Trump said last month. “We only ask that all of the NATO members make their full and proper financial contributions to the NATO alliance, which many of them have not been doing. Many of them have not been even close. And they have to do that.”
Concerns about Trump’s attitude toward NATO have been amplified by recent unsubstantiated reports of connections between his campaign and Russia and suggestions that Russia interfered in the presidential election.
Dorum offered a range of comments on the Trump administration on Thursday, both during his remarks and to the Herald in an interview after his presentation. He praised the credibility of key Trump appointments such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
He also said he thinks it’s reasonable that NATO countries pay their fair share, and he made apparent reference to Trump’s suggestion the U.S. “get along” with Russia.
“If it is possible, by some means, to lessen some tensions, that is good,” Dorum said.
He said he’s standing firm though that the NATO treaty agreement—that nations stand ready to support and defend one another—is binding. Norway has to be able to count on the U.S. for support, he said.
“If you want some dialogue in addition to deterrence, that’s fine with me,” Dorum said. “But if you want to put dialogue instead of deterrence, that’s dangerous. I’m a strong supporter of D and D—deterrence and dialogue.”
(grand forks herald)