Norwegian Ambassador visits Alaska to talk about climate, Russia and, yes, Norwegian dog mushing success


Norwegian Ambassador Anniken Krutnes in front of the White House in Washington, DC (Norwegian Embassy)

The Norwegian ambassador to the United States recently visited Alaska.

Anniken Krutnes, Norway’s first female ambassador to the United States, was in Anchorage to meet with heads of state to discuss common interests. She also met with members of the local Norwegian community and spoke at the Anchorage Museum as a guest of the Alaska World Affairs Council.

Krutnes says his country’s strong alliance with the United States and its position in the Arctic means that Alaska and Norway have a lot in common.

Listen now:

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The following transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

Anniken krutnes: We talked about climate change which is, of course, a huge problem for all of us. And at the same time, we also discussed how we can have a sustainable economy in the Arctic. We want the Arctic to be sustainable – economically, socially and environmentally. And we have to be able to do all of this.

Casey grove: In what ways can Alaska and Norway cooperate on this?

AK: It’s important to remember that climate change is happening much faster in the Arctic than in the rest of the world. But the reason for climate change is the emissions that come from the rest of the world. So we in the Arctic cannot fix climate change by just changing our behavior, climate change is a global problem. And it needs to be corrected globally, because emissions are coming from all over the world, not just the Arctic. Everyone on this planet, we must try to reduce our carbon footprint as little as possible when we have a business. But it’s actually not that different from the Arctic, like the rest of the world.

CG: Are there any specific initiatives that Norway would like the United States to adhere to these goals?

AK: Well, of course we were delighted to see you come back to the Paris Agreement. It is extremely important. And the Arctic Council has an initiative to report on methane and black carbon emissions. And the United States is now committed to reporting on this. And that is, of course, also very, very important, especially for the Arctic.

CG: In general, on a diplomatic level, have things improved with this new presidency from Norway’s point of view?

AK: Norway has a very strong relationship with the United States and it dates back several centuries. And today I met the Norwegian community. And I was actually surprised by the number of Norwegians here in Alaska, and our relationship goes way back, and it’s very strong. And we cooperate well with any administration that is in the White House. The heart of our relationship is security policy, and we are both founding members of NATO. And we have a great relationship with the United States, regardless of administration. With this administration we also have an important cooperation on the climate issue, which, of course, we are very happy about. And we are also discussing other global issues with the new administration, such as global health issues.

CG: Speaking of security and NATO issues, are there any common concerns between the two countries regarding Russia’s expansion in the Arctic?

AK: We see a military build-up on the Russian side. And of course, we have to keep an eye on that. I would say the Arctic region is still a peaceful, prosperous and predictable region. And it’s important that we keep it that way. And I think you have three basic pillars to keep it that way. And the first is respect for international law. The Arctic is governed by international law, in particular the law of the sea. And then the second is international cooperation. And we have it, especially at the Arctic Council. And the third is that we are able to manage resources in a sustainable way. And so far it has worked well.

CG: It’s a completely different question, but have you heard of the success of Norwegian mushers in races like the Iditarod here in Alaska? What do you think about that?

AK: That’s an excellent question. I think we and Alaska have a lot in common. We love the outdoors. We are tough people. We are able to cope with the cold and the dark and I am not surprised that the Norwegians win the race.

CG: Unfortunately for the Alaskans, no one is surprised that they continue to win

AK: We could also talk about cross-country skiing or ski jumping, if you like. We share many of the same interests.

CG: I was going to ask you who thought you were the best skiers, the Alaskans or the Norwegians? But I think I know what you would say.

AK: I heard you have a lot of trails here and you do a lot of cross country skiing. And I think especially now during the pandemic, when our possibilities to meet indoors have been limited, I think the outdoor life is really a relief for many of us. To get together in the open air and hike together. It’s a good opportunity that we have.


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