Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 187–209 | Cite as

The United States and Norway, 1905–2006 Allies of A Kind: So Similar, So Different

  • Geir Lundestad


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  1. 1.
    The subtitle is taken from Christopher Thorne, Allies of a Kind. The United States, Britaun, and the War Agaunst Japan, 1941–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The present Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, has stopped referring to Norway as a “small country”, a standard reference up to now. His argument is that many countries are smaller than Norway. This is undoubtedly true, but compared to the United States Norway is still small.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ingrid Semmingsen, Norway to America. A History of the Migration (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1978) 98–100.Google Scholar
  4. 3a.
    It should be noted that perhaps as many as 20 per cent of the immigrants later returned to Norway.Google Scholar
  5. 3b.
    For the 2000 census, see Sam Roberts, Who We Are Now (New York: Times Books, 2004) 246.Google Scholar
  6. 3c.
    A fine survey of Norwegian-American relations in the period indicated is found in Wayne S. Cole, Norway and the United States 1905–1955. Two Democracies in Peace and War (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1989). Cole has deposited his research notes for the book at the Norwegian Nobel Institute. These notes have proved very valuable to me and to other students of Norwegian-American relations.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    In his first meeting with Minister Herbert H. D. Peirce on August 13, 1906, King Haakon “expressed gratification at hearing that the Norwegian emigrants to America have the high character I (Peirce-GL) attributed to them and hoped that the accounts of them might continue to be satisfactory. He also expressed himself as highly gratified at the kindness with which his subjects had always been treated when coming to America.” for this, see Cole Papers, Drawer 1, 1905–13, Peiree to Secretary of State, August 13, 1906.Google Scholar
  8. 4a.
    A State Department Country Statement of September 15, 1950, affirmed that “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.” Cole Papers, Drawer 1, Country Statement, Norway, September 15, 1950.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    In the negotiations on the Integrity treaty of 1907 Løvland did express the hope that Norway could bring England and Germany closer together, an early example of Norway’s later bridgebuilding role. For this, see Per Eivind Hem, Jørgen Løvland. Vår første utanriksminister (Jørgen Løvland. Our first foreign minister) (Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget, 2005) 387–88.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    The preceding paragraphs are based in part on Olav Riste, Norway’s Foreign Relations — A History (Oslo: Universitetsforiaget, 2001) 60, 75–77, 86–87, 132–33, 138.Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    Olav Riste, The Neutral Ally: Norway’s Relations with Belligerent Powers in the First World War (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1965.)Google Scholar
  12. 8.
    Riste, Norway’s Foreign Relations, 106.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    For fine accounts of the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, see Øyvind Stenersen, Ivar Libæk and Asle Sveen, The Nobel Peace Prize. One Hundred Years for Peace (Oslo: Cappelen, 2001) andGoogle Scholar
  14. 9a.
    Irving Abrams, The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates. An illustrated biographical history, 1901–2001 (Nantucket: Science History Publications, 2001.)Google Scholar
  15. 10.
    Sigmund Skard, The United States in Norwegian History (Westport-Oslo: Greenwood Press-Universitetsforlaget, 1976) 171.Google Scholar
  16. 10a.
    For the much more complete Norwegian edition of the same book, see Skard, USA i norsk historic (The USA in Norwegian History) (Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget, 1976).Google Scholar
  17. 11.
    Geir Lundestad, America, Scandinavia and the Cold War 1945–1949 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980) 178–82. These rumors have not received much attention from historians, in great part because in the end no Soviet pact proposal was presented to Norway. There can be little doubt, however, that the rumors influenced the American decision to start negotiations for an Atlantic security system.Google Scholar
  18. 12.
    This process is well described in Magne Skodvin, Norden ellerNATO? Utenriksdepartementet og alliansespørsmålet 1947–1949 (Norden or NATO? The Foreign Office and the alliance question 1947–1949) (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1971) particularly 103–06.Google Scholar
  19. 13.
    Lundestad, America, Scandinavia and the Cold War, 238–89.Google Scholar
  20. 14.
    Rolf Tamnes, Oljealder, 1965–1995 (Oil age, 1965–1995) (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1991) 61–69.Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    The best account of this process is found in Roll Tamnes, The United States and the Cold War in the High North (Oslo: ad Notam, 1991).Google Scholar
  22. 15a.
    A fine analysis of the 1950s is also Mats R. Berdal, The United States, Norway and the Cold War, 1954–60 (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1997.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 15c.
    For a survey in English of Norwegian writings on the Cold War, see Helge Pharo, “Post-Cold War Historiography in Norway” in Thorsten B. Olesen, ed., The Cold War — and the Nordic Countries. Historiography at a Crossroads (Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2004) 97–142.Google Scholar
  24. 16.
    An excellent analysis of the role of atomic weapons in Norwegian foreign policy is found in Kjetil Skogrand and Rolf Tamnes, Fryktens likevekt. Atombomben, Norge og verden 1945-1970 (The balance of fear. The atomic bomb, Norway and the world 1945–1970) (Oslo: Tiden, 2001). For a good account not only of the Kennedy years, but even of much of the 1950s, see Line Lillevik, Moments of Crisis: John E Kennedy and the Norwegian Response to the Cold War, 1960–1964 (Unpublished PhD dissertation, Yale, 2002).Google Scholar
  25. 17.
    National Archives, Record Group 59, 1970–73, Box 2513, Ambassador Crowe to Department of State, March 14, 1970.Google Scholar
  26. 18.
    Tamnes, Oljealder, 1965–1995, 88–89, 133–37.Google Scholar
  27. 19.
    America’s expansion is described in any history textbook. For a brief account of Norway’s expansion, see Riste, Norway’s Foreign Relations, 115–27, 245–51.Google Scholar
  28. 20.
    Abrams, The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates, 337.Google Scholar
  29. 21.
    Until 1936 prominent Norwegian politicians such as Løvland and Koht were members of the Nobel Committee. Koht left as a result of the decision to award the prize to German peace activist Carl yon Ossietzky. After that members of the government could not serve as members of the Nobel Committee.Google Scholar
  30. 22.
    John Ausland, Bak ambassadens murer (Behind embassy walls) (Oslo: Universitetsforlager, 1979) 105–09.Google Scholar
  31. 23.
    Jan Egeland, Impotent Superpower — Potent Small Power (Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1988). Egeland was later, as State Secretary in the Norwegian Foreign Office, important in the Oslo channel on the Middle East; today he is the UN Under-Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affaurs.Google Scholar
  32. 24.
    Author’s own conversations with several of the Norwegian facilitators involved.Google Scholar
  33. 25.
    For interesting comments on the most recent past, see Ole Berthelsen, En frelser, en prest og en satan: Bush, Bondevik og Irak-krigen (A savior, a minister and a satan: Bush, Bondevik and the Iraq war) (Oslo: Gyldendal, 2005).Google Scholar
  34. 25a.
    My own analysis of American-Western European relations through the Iraq war can be found in Geir Lundestad, The United States and Western Europe Since 1945. From “‘Empire’” by Invitation to Transatlantic Drift (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, paperback edition 2005).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 26.
    Geir Lundestad, “Ingen krise mellom USA og Norge,” (No Crisis between the USA and Norway), Aftenposten, May 5, B2.Google Scholar
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    Skard, The United States in Norwegian History, 74–5.Google Scholar
  37. 28.
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  38. 28a.
    Stenersen, Libæk and Sveen, The Nobel Peace Prize, 46–47. Minister Peirce wrote that “The hearty demonstrations with which Mr. Roosevelt was welcomed here exceeded anything of the sort I have witnessed in Norway. and it indicates the warmth of feeling for our country on the part of the Norwegian people.” Cole Papers, Drawer 1, T.R and Root, Peirce to Secretary of State, May 13, 1910.Google Scholar
  39. 29.
    Skard, The United States in Norwegian History, 129, 143, 148–50.Google Scholar
  40. 29.
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  41. 31.
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  42. 32.
    Ingrid Semmingsen, En verdensmakt blir til (The creation of a world power) (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1946) 423. The translation from Norwegian is mine.Google Scholar
  43. 33.
    For an overview of Norwegian writings on the United States, see Geir Lundestad, “Research Trends and Accomplishments in Norway on United States History” in Lewis Hanke, ed., Guide to the Study of United States History Outside the U.S. 1945–1980 (White Plauns: Kraus International Publication, 1985) Volume III, 247–302.Google Scholar
  44. 33a.
    The Country Statement on Norway from 1950 saw the attitude of the Norwegian people towards the US as “influenced by new and old ties” and as “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 (NATO and the Mutual Defense Assistance Program-GL)Y Cole Papers, Drawer 1, 1950, Country Statement on Norway.Google Scholar
  45. 34.
    Jussi Hanhimäki, Scandinavia and the United States. An Insecure Friendship (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997) 57–65; Lundestad, “Guide to the Study of United States History Outside the U.S. “, 255, 262–63.Google Scholar
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    Hanhimäki, Scandinavia and the United States, 87–91.Google Scholar
  47. 36.
    Einar Gerhardsen, I medgang og motgang. Erindringer 1955–65 (Prosperity and adversity. Memoirs 1955–65) (Oslo: Tiden, 1972) 310–15.Google Scholar
  48. 37.
    Bjørn Alstad, Norske meninger (Norwegian opinions) (Oslo: Pax, 1969), Volume I, 110–11, 116–17, 118.Google Scholar
  49. 38.
    Hanhimäki, Scandinavia, 101–02, 121–25.Google Scholar
  50. 39.
    Berthelsen, En frelser, en prest og en satan (draft manuscript), 4.Google Scholar
  51. 40.
    Semmingsen, En verdensmakt blir til (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1972), 283–91, 312–14, 335–40, 365–66, 369–86, 398–406, 410–14, 425–30, 436, 447.Google Scholar
  52. 41.
    Lundestad, “Guide to the Study of United States History Outside the U.S.”, 264.Google Scholar
  53. 42.
    Much of what follows in this section is based on my own impressions after having followed rather closely the coverage in Norwegian media of the United States in the last 35 years. No one has really written in any detaul on the domestic relationship between the two countries. The best account of Norwegian foreign policy after 1965 is Tamnes, Oljealder, 1965–1995.Google Scholar
  54. 43.
    In his rather detauled memoirs Clinton deals only superficially with Norway’s role in the Oslo process. Otherwise Norway is mentioned only once, when Clinton, as a student at Oxford, visited Scandinavia. For this. see Bill Clinton, My Life (London: Hutchinson, 2004) 166, 541–42, 545, 874.Google Scholar
  55. 44.
    Henry Jackson, senator from the state of Washington from 1952 until his death in 1983, was very proud of his Norwegian ancestry. While increasingly conservative in foreign affaurs, he continued to hold strong liberal credentials on the domestic side.Google Scholar
  56. 45.
    The standard work on the integration of the Norwegian Americans into American society is Odd Lovold, The Promise Fulfilled. A Portraut of Norwegian Americans Today (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998) particularly 107–37.Google Scholar
  57. 46.
    The influence of the Norwegian-Americans in Norwegian politics was never very strong, but probably most significant in connection with the events in 1884 (the introduction of a parliamentary system) and 1905 (Norway’s full independence). For this, see Odd S. Lovoll, “1905 og norsk-amerikanerne” (1905 and the Norwegian-Americans), Dagbladet, July 30, 2005.Google Scholar
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    Statistics on trade are found in the yearly Statistical_Abstract of the United States published by the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.Google Scholar
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    Halvdan Koht, The American Spirit in Europe: A Survey of Transatlantic Influences (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949), 175. See also v, 2. 16, 59, 124, 144–45, 178–79, 181, 183–84, 186, 202, 207, 242–45, 256, 264, 270–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Johan Galtung and Nils Petter Gleditsch, “Norge i verdenssamfunnet” (Norway in the world community) in Natalie Rogoff Ramsøy and Mariken Vaa, eds., Det norske samfunn (Norwegian society) (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1975) 782Google Scholar
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    Hans Skoie, “Da forskerne vendte seg mot vest” (When researchers turned west). Forskningspolitikk, 3:2004, 9Google Scholar
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    Fredrik W. Thue, In Quest of a Democratic Social Order. The Americanization of Norwegian Social Scholarship 1918–1970 (PhD, University of Oslo. 2006.).Google Scholar
  72. 57.
    For a recent study that definitely overstates the negative attitude to the United States, see Stian Bromark and Dag Herbjørnsrud, Frykten for Amerika. En europeisk historie (The fear of America. A European history) (Oslo: Tiden, 2003).Google Scholar
  73. 58.
    Josef Joffe, “Who’s Afraud of Mr. Big?,” The National Interest, 64 (Summer 2001) 44.Google Scholar
  74. 59.
    Bromark and Herbjcrnsrud, Frykten for Amerika, 308. In interviews in October 2005 with executives in McDonald’s Norway, I was told that in recent years McDonald’s market share has remauned around 50 per cent, despire an ever stronger competition. Thus, for what it might be worth, political developments seem to have had little influence at least on this point. The same seems to be the case also more generally internationally. For this, see “American multinationals: Stars and Stripes for ever,” The Economist, December 17, 2005, 66.Google Scholar
  75. 60.
    This is also the general argument in Richard Pells, Not Like Us: How Europeans have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture since World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997.)Google Scholar
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    Geir Lundestad, “Distriktene” (The districts) inAschehoug and Gyldendals Store Norske Leksikon, 2005 (The New Norwegian Encyclopedia), Volume 4, Introduction.Google Scholar
  77. 62.
    Joanna Chung and Daniel Dombey, “Global poll says Kerry preferred over Bush,” Financial Times, September 9, 2004, 1,4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of the Journal of Transatlantic Studies 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geir Lundestad
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OsloNorway

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