Policy Statement Prepared in the Department of State 1
The objective of our policy toward Norway is to seek continued and effective Norwegian cooperation with us in the building of a strong, stable, prosperous and democratic Europe and Atlantic community. Since an essential condition of such constructive effort is reasonable security against the threat of Soviet expansion and the spread of communism, we seek the continued development of Norway’s ability and willingness to participate effectively with us and with the other western European countries in opposing these threats. Our policies, therefore, are directed toward maintenance of existing friendly and cooperative relations between the US and Norway; at prompting Norway’s economic recovery; at encouraging its participation in the development of more effective European economic and political association; and at strengthening Norwegian defense within the NAT framework. These objectives are grounded on the interests of our security and wellbeing and coincide also with our natural affinity for a nation of similar democratic institutions and ideals.
Relations between the US and Norway have almost without exception been friendly and have been characterized by a virtual absence of serious political issues. Attachment to the same concepts of democracy, mutually profitable commerce, and the presence in the US of large numbers of American citizens of Norwegian descent have contributed to this condition. Roth the US and Norway have enjoyed a long background of neutrality and relative isolation from European conflicts.[Page 1531]
Both have undergone parallel foreign policy revolutions of relatively recent origin as the result of German aggression in the last war and the existing threat of Soviet expansion which has for the first time during peace made relations between the two countries a matter of vital interest to both.
The political and military value of Norway as an ally lies not only in the moral and material weight of an additional democratic country lining up with us against further Soviet expansion, but is due also to its strategic location. Norway lies across the great circle air route between North America and western Russia and is in a position to command the exits from the Baltic and Barents Seas.… Norway, in addition, possesses a merchant marine of about 5,000,000 gross tons, the third largest in the world, which in the event of an emergency would be a most significant contribution to an allied defense effort. Finally, Norway’s forthright westward orientation has proved to be of great advantage to US policy in Scandinavia from a diplomatic standpoint. The influence of Norway was important in the decision of both Denmark and Iceland to join the North Atlantic Treaty, and it remains a helpful instrument in implementing our policies in northern Europe.
We have implemented our policy toward Norway since the war by providing political, economic and military support to that country. At the outset of the post-war period financial assistance in the form of Export-Import Bank, Surplus Property, and War Assets loans were made to the Norwegian Government to assist in repairing the devastation of war in which Norway had lost approximately one-fifth of its total national wealth, including one-half of its merchant marine. These measures were, however, only stop-gaps, and American assistance was undertaken on a large scale later through Norway’s inclusion in the ERP. The substantial help given in this way has achieved its purpose of raising the standard of living and bringing Norway well along the path to recovery and reconstruction. Political and military support through the North Atlantic Treaty and MDAP followed.2
On its side Norway has departed from its traditional Scandinavian neutrality, realizing that its security as well as its economic well-being lie in close cooperation with the countries of the North Atlantic area.
Fear of the Soviet Union began to develop in Norway in 1946 when the Soviets unsuccessfully proposed to the Norwegian Government a joint defense agreement for Spitzbergen, a matter which Norway [Page 1532] contended should be dealt with in accordance with the United Nations Charter, This fear was sharpened by the spectacle of Soviet intimidation of its neighboring satellite countries and obstructionism in the United Nations and in various international conferences. The Communist coup d’état in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet invitation to Finland to negotiate a defense pact were watched with apprehension. Concurrent rumors originating in European Communist circles to the effect that Norway would be invited to negotiate a similar pact greatly added to its sense of menace and impelled the Norwegian Government to announce that under no conditions would it enter into such a defense pact with the Soviet Union and further that Norway was determined to defend itself against threats to its independence from any quarter. The United States actively encouraged Norway in its determination to defend its independence.
These events, together with Norway’s state of military unpreparedness, caused the Norwegian Government in March 1948 to approach the US with a view to examining the basis for military collaboration between the two countries and to request our assistance in equipping the Norwegian armed forces. We found it possible at that time to offer Norway only token quantities of supplies which were, however, not taken up by the Norwegians. At the same time we foreshadowed the formation of a collective defense pact in accordance with the Vandenberg Resolution and during the next several months kept the Norwegian Government informed, usually at its own behest, of the development of the pact and our preliminary discussions with the Brussels Treaty powers.
From the first the Norwegian Government exhibited intense interest in the formation of a security pact in the North Atlantic area. It also entered in the late summer of 1948 into conversations with Sweden and Denmark looking toward inter-Scandinavian military cooperation. The Norwegian purpose in participating in these negotiations was apparently the formation of a Scandinavian security pact which might later be associated in some form with the new pact developing in the west. Sweden, on the other hand, viewed the discussions as an opportunity to draw its neighbors, Norway and Denmark, into a pact based on an isolationalist policy of strict neutrality. During the parleys the United States informed the three governments that it favored the formation of a Scandinavian pact provided its members were not impeded thereby from participating in broader regional arrangements. We also informed them that owing to limitations of supply US military assistance would go on a priority basis to countries qualifying for it under the terms of the Vandenberg Resolution and those to which we had previous commitments. Under the circumstances, [Page 1533] Norway felt that its security would not be adequately safeguarded by the Swedish proposal for a neutral bloc barred from association with the west and the Scandinavian discussions ended in disagreement.
Since joining the North Atlantic Treaty, the Norwegians have raised with us on several occasions the problem of military cooperation with Sweden. During the examination by Norway, Denmark and Sweden of the possibilities of a Scandinavian Pact, the necessities and possibilities of military cooperation between the three countries for the defense of Scandinavia were thoroughly reviewed and certain de facto conclusions of a preliminary kind were reached. Norway has shown a desire to continue cooperative planning although Sweden is apparently unwilling to pursue it further because of its neutrality policy. Subject to the decisions of the Northern European Regional Planning Group and the Defense Committee of the Pact, we favor the idea of Norwegian-Swedish defense cooperation on a reciprocal basis should it prove possible.
In January 1949 the Soviet Union, when Norway’s intention to join the North Atlantic Pact became evident, addressed a strong note to the Norwegian Government stressing the common border between Norway and the USSR and demanding to know whether Norway intended to grant military bases on its territory to the western powers. In reply, the Norwegian Government assured the Soviets that Norway would not provide bases for foreign powers as long “as Norway is not attacked or exposed to threats of attack”. The Soviet Union returned to the charge in February by rejecting the Norwegian answer and inviting Norway to enter into a non-aggression pact. In its final, reply the Norwegian Government refused the Soviet proposal but reiterated its determination not to grant base rights to foreign powers except under the conditions mentioned.…
Since joining the North Atlantic Pact the Norwegian Government has participated constructively in the development of its organization and defense planning. It was clear during the early phases of the Pact that the Norwegians, considering themselves as being “on the firing line”, were primarily interested in the concrete measures necessary for the immediate improvement of their defense position. Norway expected the Military Assistance Program to get under way more immediately than proved possible and there were signs of concern on the part of Norwegian Government officials lest the confidence of their people in the North Atlantic Pact be undermined. Norway also expected and desired the participation of the US in the Northern European Regional Planning Group but was apparently satisfied with our final decision that we would “actively participate as appropriate” [Page 1534] in the work of the Group. During the discussions leading to the estabment of the North Atlantic Planning Board for Ocean Shipping, the Norwegian Government evinced its strong interest in all decisions arrived at and pressed particularly for the acceptance of certain principles which it advocated, especially those concerning financial arrangements for the operation of their ships in an emergency. The Norwegian merchant marine, in the event of the occupation of the homeland by an enemy, is vital to Norway as providing the means for future reconstruction and rehabilitation. We may expect, therefore, that the Norwegians will continue to press their views most actively in this connection. Our attitude will continue to be sympathetic in attempting to reach a solution in keeping with the principles of mutual assistance and the best interests of collective defense.
The Norwegians indicated their strong interest in the 1950 Mutual Defense Assistance Program by very thorough advanced preparation and cooperation. Consequently the program as finally put into effect is satisfactory to Norway and fits in well with the initial phases of a six-year defense program recently adopted by the Norwegian Government. A temporarily difficult problem developed, however, regarding the numerical size of the Military Assistance Advisory Group. The Norwegian Government is sensitive to the possibility of domestic criticism regarding a large American military mission in Norway and is also concerned about the difficult housing and office space situation in Oslo which has at times required requisition of space and expulsion of local people in order to accommodate our own. We have insisted only that the MAAG be adequately staffed to assure the effective use by Norway of the military assistance which we make available.
Aside from the Communists, opposition to the North Atlantic Pact within Norway was, and to some extent remains, concentrated mainly within the ranks of the ruling Labor Party where certain … doctrinaire socialists and intellectuals motivated by pacifism, by reluctance to join a front against the Soviet Union, or by a desire for cooperation with neutral Sweden gave the Government a brief period of uneasiness just prior to Norway’s decision to join the Pact. This was dispelled when, owing partly to excellent leadership by the Government both the Labor Party Congress and the Storting voted overwhelmingly in favor of adherence to the Pact. That this decision reflected accurately the will of the Norwegian people was indicated in the elections of October 1949, in which the Labor Government increased its absolute majority in the 150 member Storting from 76 to 85 seats. The previous Communist representation of 11 seats was eliminated altogether.
Although the Communists polled 100,000 votes in the election, the Party membership was in 1949 less than 15,000. With its relatively [Page 1535] healthy economic and social conditions and deep-seated allegiance to democratic ways, Norway offers barren ground for the growth of Communism and the election results represented a blow from which the Party is still staggering. Shortly after the election, and partly due to Communist losses therein, a long smoldering feud between two rival leaders broke out, splitting the Party wide open and bringing Communist influence in Norway to a new low.
The attitude of the Norwegian people toward the US, influenced by new and old ties, is friendly, although tempered by doubts concerning the reliability and consistency of US foreign policy, by distrust in labor circles of American capitalism and by uneasiness in some quarters about Norway’s commitments under the NAT and MDAP. To combat these reservations we will continue and intensify our program of information and educational exchange with Norway including our program under the 1949 Fulbright Agreement.
Under the European Recovery Program the US had made available over 300 million dollars of direct and indirect aid to Norway up to June 30, 1950. We will continue this ECA assistance in line with our policies for European recovery and integration. The assistance given to Norway thus far has provided the margin necessary for continued progress in Norwegian post-war rehabilitation and recovery, which in the spring of 1948 seemed doomed by the drain on gold and foreign currency reserves. Nevertheless, Norway’s import deficit, largely financed by ECA assistance, continues to be so high as to create considerable doubt as to the possibility of the country being able to maintain its present standard of living after US assistance terminates in 1952. Exports have not increased proportionately to industrial production, partly because of increased domestic consumption, and income from shipping has disappointed expectations due to falling freight rates. Moreover, certain economic and social policies of the Norwegian Government which provide for extremely high rates of investment and taxation and are designed to maintain full employment do not appear well suited to promoting exports and reducing imports. The problem of the Norwegian imbalance of payments concerns our government not only because of our objective to help Norway back to economic viability by 1952, but because of the inhibiting effect which this problem has upon Norway’s willingness to take measures toward trade liberalization which are vital steps toward European integration. Norway’s willingness in this respect is affected not only by the fact that the Norwegian economy is unusually dependent by its nature upon imported manufactures, raw materials and foodstuffs, thus requiring a careful husbanding of resources under present circumstances, but also because the Government and Labor Party fear [Page 1536] the relaxation of import controls on the grounds that increased imports of consumer goods will necessitate a reduction of the Government’s investment and reconstruction program and cause mass unemployment. Removal of import restrictions is also feared as a threat to the ability of certain protected Norwegian industries to compete with foreign producers.
In spite of such considerations Norway has explored during the past two years the establishment of a Scandinavian Customs Union with Sweden and Denmark, but has found it impossible to join in such an organization at this time because of competitive disadvantages and the lack of market for Norwegian exports in Sweden and Denmark. Nevertheless, a joint power project providing for the export of Norwegian electricity through Sweden to Denmark is under consideration and may be undertaken with the help of ECA. In addition, a proposal to liberalize payment transfers and tourist allowances as between the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, under the name of UNISCAN, was adopted in January of 1950 as the first step in a regional financial arrangement.
Norway has participated fully in the OEEC and has abided by the majority decisions. Its performance in trade liberalization measures so far has fallen short of the agreed 50 per cent mark for the elimination of quantitative restrictions on imports only in the case of manufactured goods. However, there is increasing opposition in the Government and trade unions to an extension of liberalization and Norway remains cool to the concept of western European economic federation.
Our objective is to persuade the Norwegian Government to take the measures we deem necessary to improve its balance of payments position and concurrently to play an active role in European economic integration, a difficult task in view of the above complications and the necessity of our avoiding interference in internal Norwegian affairs. An example of the type of individual problem we face is the question of our attitude toward the Norwegian Government steel project at Mo-i-Rana, an undertaking costing the equivalent of $57 million, including a small amount of ECA funds, intended to make Norway partially self-sufficient in steel. Although the project is a prime political objective of the Labor Party, it demands the diversion of considerable resources over a period of time before it will contribute to recovery. Our attitude will be based on an objective study of the long-run economic justification of the project in Norway taking into account also its relation to European economic integration.
Norway has shown its agreement with certain US economic policies by signing the ITO charter and by negotiating GATT agreements granting reciprocal tariff concessions on an extensive range of goods. [Page 1537] We are at present engaged in negotiating mutual tariff concessions which it is hoped will increase the flow of commodities in both directions. Cooperation by Norway in implementing controls in east-west trade has been highly satisfactory.
In the case of certain other policies, such as our policy of protection of our merchant marine as manifested by the ECA 50% clause, the Norwegians are highly critical since their dollar earning capacity is directly limited thereby.
c. relations with other countries
Since the warning note sounded by the USSR just prior to Norway’s joining the North Atlantic Pact relations between Norway and the Soviet Union have been quiet and correct. There has been no further official bluster by the latter, although the Soviet press and radio have been indefatigable in harping on the theme that Norway is being prepared under American military advisers as a base for aggression against the USSR. At the end of 1949 Norway and the USSR signed a convention regulating the Norwegian-Soviet border and the use of the water of the Pasvik River. This convention was negotiated and has been implemented without complications. However, in the spring of 1950 negotiations failed for the renewal of the Trade Agreement between the two countries. The Soviets first insisted upon the inclusion in the list of Norwegian exports of small quantities of molybdenum concentrate which Norway had exported in the past. Finally, presumably satisfied that Norwegian production had been suspended and that Norway was not withholding the item for political reasons, the USSR indicated the way was clear to a new treaty. However, at the last minute when the final proposals were under consideration the Soviets introduced a demand for 10,000 tons of aluminum, a 9,000 ton increase over the proposed amount and clearly incapable of fulfillment by Norway in view of other commitments. While other western countries have similarly failed to reach trade agreements with the USSR, it is speculated that the Soviet motive is to weaken Norway which depends heavily on imports from the USSR. One-third of Norway’s bread grain requirements, manganese ore, and other important imports have been obtained in recent years from that source with consequent dollar savings.
Close cooperation with Sweden and Denmark, which has in the past been the keystone of Norwegian foreign policy, has been substantially modified by Sweden’s remaining outside the North Atlantic Treaty. Relations between Denmark and Norway continue to be exceedingly intimate, intensified by their joint membership in the NATO which now represents the center of gravity for Norwegian foreign policy. In the field of politico-military affairs, both countries are engaged in [Page 1538] close cooperation with the UK in the Northern European Regional Planning Group within the Treaty Organization. Relations with the UK based upon political, cultural, and commercial affinity and the experience of the last war have traditionally been closer than any Norwegian foreign relationship outside Scandinavia and it was in the joint Anglo-Norwegian Economic Cooperation Committee that the idea of UNISCAN germinated. Any intensification of relations between Norway and the UK is, however, somewhat limited by Norway’s determination to draw closer to the US as chief source of support for improving Norwegian defense and of assistance in time of emergency. Norwegian policy quite frankly rests on the assumption that its political and military security is based on US rather than UK power and on the belief that its economic salvation lies in greater US and Canadian commitment in economic plans being formulated for Europe rather than in plans for regional or European integration without US participation.
The post-war divergence between Norway and Sweden has resulted in some deterioration of customarily intimate Norwegian-Swedish relations. The change in feeling toward Sweden is not as apparent in the Norwegian Government, which has continued to seek cooperation, as it is among the Norwegian people who have tended to hark back to the days of the last war when Sweden was bitterly criticized for its neutrality and for concessions granted to Germany after the latter’s occupation of Norway. Although there exists a deep-rooted feeling among Norwegians of solidarity with other Scandinavian peoples, it is unlikely that recurrent feelings of irritation with Sweden sometimes manifested in the Norwegian press and reciprocated by the Swedish press will subside altogether until Swedish foreign policy is altered.
Since the drafting of the United Nations Charter at San Francisco in May and June 1945, Norway has participated in the work of the United Nations Organization to an extent surprising in a nation whose population and resources are so limited. It furnished the first Secretary-General of the United Nations, Trygve Lie, who had earlier been Foreign Minister of Norway. Its representatives and its nationals holding positions in the Secretariat, have in the main been persons of outstanding diligence and competence. The Norwegian representative on the Security Council, of which Norway is a member for the term 1950–52, took a distinguished part in the debate during July and August 1950 regarding the complaint of aggression against the Republic of Korea.3 Norway, like the United Kingdom, has recognized the Chinese Communist regime, and for this reason Norway’s position [Page 1539] in United Nations organs diverges from that of the United States with regard to the question of Chinese representation.
Our post-war policy toward Norway has been and continues to be successful. As long as Norway remains a free democracy and the US remains determined to support free democracies Norwa) will be a steadfast ally. Our present partnership is based on a substantial identity of interest and an absence of serious disagreement. With every sign that the US is determined to stand firm against Soviet aggression and with each new evidence of US support for Norway, Norway’s confidence in and reliance upon the US is increased. Any diminution of this attitude on the part of the US would have the reverse effect on Norway. No individual conflicts of interest not impinging on these fundamental facts are likely to alter the situation. The attitude of skepticism toward the US in certain Norwegian circles is slowly giving way to trust and good will as a result of a growing appreciation of the Soviet threat to world peace and United States support of Norway.
- Policy statements on various countries were prepared periodically in the Department of State and updated every year or two. The previous study on Norway was dated November 10, 1948, but apparently all copies were destroyed upon receipt of this ‘revision. Copies of the source text were sent to posts in the Scandinavian countries and to London, Paris, Moscow, Frankfort, Dublin, The Hague, Ottawa, and the United States Mission to the United Nations.↩
- For the text of the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement between the United States and Norway, signed January 27 at Washington, see Department of State Bulletin, February 13, 1950, pp. 250–253, or Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 2016. Further documentation on the Military Defense Assistance Program in Norway is in files 740.5 MAP and 757.5 MAP.↩
- For documentation on the discussion of the Korean question in the Security Council, see volume vii .↩