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Norway's PM Says Trump Administration Needs To Understand Impacts Of 'America First'


The questions that President Trump took today came in a news conference with the first foreign leader to visit him this year, the prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg. Before she went to the White House, I sat down with the prime minister at the Norwegian ambassador's residence. Over the last year, President Trump has given mixed messages about America's commitment to NATO and collective defense, so I asked the prime minister whether she thinks the U.S. still has Norway's back. She said yes.

PRIME MINISTER ERNA SOLBERG: In the security policy area, I don't think there's a big change. There's always a bit of - I won't call it anxiety but a bit of nervousness about what would a new administration mean. All national campaigns are about not doing too much foreign policy. All presidents in the United States have always focused on national issues in their election campaigns. But the U.S. is the biggest military power in the world. It has a big impact on security policies all over the world, and every president in office have to focus more on security and policy issues like that. And I've felt we've seen the same.

I think there's a strengthening of security policies now from the U.S., but it goes in line with the fact that we see a more assertive Russia. We've seen what happened in Ukraine. We have to fight international terrorism. So there has been a change in all countries on focusing more also on defense on cooperation inside the NATO since 2014.

SHAPIRO: But just to be clear, you believe that the U.S. is as engaged in NATO, foreign affairs, international coalitions as it ever has been.

SOLBERG: In NATO, I think they are as engaged as they have been, but they have a different policy on some issues. The fact that President Trump have said that they don't want to follow up on the Paris accords - of course we have criticized that.

SHAPIRO: The climate treaty.

SOLBERG: The climate treaty has to be fulfilled. And we believe that that is an important part also of long-term security because the impact of climate change on the security issues will be stronger in the future because of more migrating of people, because of changes in the climate.

SHAPIRO: As you mention, the U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate accord while Norway has been a promoter of renewable energies. Do you think that the world can adequately address the challenge of a changing climate without full U.S. participation?

SOLBERG: Well, I hope we will see a U.S. that continues what we have seen since 2005 - a steady decline of its emissions. That's the biggest, you know? The biggest importance is what do the U.S. as a nation deliver on climate? I was saddened by the fact that the current administration didn't want to follow up on the Paris Agreement because I think it was a very intense process of reaching that agreement where the U.S. had a very important role in getting some of the more reluctant countries to come in and participate. Well, what we have seen afterwards is that everybody else is sticking to those targets, and they are working on reaching their commitment by the Paris Agreement. So maybe the impact won't be as big as long as the U.S. are delivering on lower CO2 emissions.

SHAPIRO: So what I hear you saying both on international security and on climate is something that we sometimes hear American politicians say, which is, pay less attention to the president's words and more attention to the policies and actions.

SOLBERG: I think the policies and actions are important. I think words are important for politicians always. But I think sometimes the actions are the absolutely most important thing in international community.

SHAPIRO: Norway is taking more of a leadership position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, on sustainable development goals, on issues where traditionally the United States has taken the lead. Do you think that this administration's America First posture is reducing the U.S. role as a global leader?

SOLBERG: I think it's important to see that if you want to put your interests first, you also have to look at what - how is that affected by what happens in the rest of the world. And in today's globalized world, we will not be unaffected by conflicts all over the rest of the world.

SHAPIRO: Like the United States, Norway has been the subject of Russian disinformation campaigns, trolls, propaganda and so on. But it does not seem to have been entirely successful in Norway. For example, the propaganda radio network Sputnik closed its Norwegian language operation. Do you have any advice for the U.S.?

SOLBERG: I think there is a natural skepticism in the Norwegian political life towards that type of propaganda. It's not so easy to divide us. We are a small country. We have - we usually say that the broad lines of our foreign policy cannot be just on one party line. It has to be - we have to make a compromise, which I think means that also Russia has less to play on. It's easier to play when you're in very big conflict on, for example, foreign policy between the political parties in a country. It's easier for any country outside to play into the political life. I don't think that's been very easy in Norway.

SHAPIRO: The last question I would like to ask is about the number of women in leadership roles in your government. In addition to you, the foreign minister, the finance minister and others are positions held by women. What difference do you think that makes in Norway and globally?

SOLBERG: First of all, I think the reason why we have so many women is of course three, four decades - so a lot of women in politics. So suddenly you have a lot of women to recruit into those of the highest-ranking positions in government. And I think it has - or it has in Norway seen that the everyday life of women has been more focused in policies. That's why we do have - had focus on, how do you manage work-family relations? You have to have support networks if you want all women to participate in the labor market and still have children, which I think is also an important balance for family life.

I think in foreign policy and others, we are focusing more on women's role in conflict prevention, understanding how if you really want to build a country that can overcome the splits that you have in a society, you have to work from the grassroots up. And you have to take women into that work because very often, women are the first and are the biggest victims of a conflict period. We see that in rape. We see it in how you are using women as targets also in a lot of - especially conflicts inside a country.

SHAPIRO: I wonder if something just as simple as child care makes a big difference, which can be difficult for American mothers to find and is very robust in Norway.

SOLBERG: Yes. And in all the Scandinavian countries, that's been I think one of the effects of having more women in politics - is to say that, well, if you really want us to be working, using our education, you have to make sure that we also can be mothers at the same time. We don't want to choose between a career and motherhood. And in societies where the wage differences aren't that big, it's not so easy to get somebody else to take care of your children inside your own home. That means that you have to build out a helping systems for the family. And the benefit of that is higher economic growth and maybe also a more innovative society.

SHAPIRO: Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SOLBERG: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINKANE'S "JEEPER CREEPER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.