Arctic Congress: "The US Does Not Fear a Breakdown in Democracy"

Ambassadørpanel Arctic Congress 2024
Ambassadors panel Arctic Congress 2024: Moderator Arne O Holm, Editor/commentator High North News, Maria Varteressian, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, Tarvo Kungla, Deputy Chief of Mission, EU Delegation to Norway, Ambassador Amy Baker, Canadian Ambassador to Norway, Jamal Al-Mussawi, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in Norway, Dr. Acquino Vimal, Indian Ambassador to Norway and Ambassador Florence Robine, French Ambassador to Norway. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

Bodø (High North News): With democracies on the decline, and Donald Trump on the rise, the Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy in Norway, Jamal Al-Mussawi is "not that worried at all". "There is still a lot of trust and support for the kind of democracy we do have."

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As tradition has it, representatives and ambassadors from Arctic states and stakesholders met for a unique debate on the future of the High North during The Arctic Congress in Bodø, Northern Norway on its opening day.

The panel - led by High North News editor and commentator Arne O. Holm - consisted of State Secretary Maria Varteressian from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway, Deputy Chief of Mission Tarvo Kungla from the EU Delegation to Norway, Canadian ambassador to Norway Amy Baker, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Jamal Al-Mussawi from the US Embassy in Norway, Indian Ambassador to Norway Dr. Acquino Vimal, and ambassador Florence Robine, French Ambassador to Norway.

The burning question for anyone following american politics - or just politics in general - is the upcoming US presidential election, and how it will impact the Arctic.

American democracy

Republican presidential candidate for the Republican party has made no secret of his will to turn his back to Nato, as well as promising to end the war in Ukraine "in a day", and to restore his “wonderful” travel ban on individuals from several majority-Muslim countries to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country”.

There is still a lot of trust and support
Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Jamal Al-Mussawi, US Embassy in Norway

How is democracy going in the US? Holm asked the american diplomat, twice.

"We are not that worried overall", answered Deputy Chief of Mission Jamal Al-Mussawi after a pause.

"Yes, there is a strong concern that democracy is failing in the United States. But there is still a lot of trust and support for the kind of democracy we do have."

No worries

Al-Mussawi added that voter turnout is on the rise, which means that apathy has not really settled in the american people.

"People really understand that to affect change you have to get out and vote, you have to make your voice heard. I have no worries whatsoever or that in November people will go to the polls for our next presidential election", the diplomat states.

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Al-Mussawi understands the public´s concern from reading news and posts on social media about Trump and the election.

"It actually makes me quite proud that people are interested in what is happening in the US. It is great, and we appreciate the support, but we have been through more than 200 years of really trying times in the United States, and this is just another chapter", the american diplomat assured.

On the rise

But do you understand why this is a consern in Europe? Holm replied.

"I think it is necessary for us as diplomats and as average Americans to explain to our friends around the world that the concern does not really need to be as high as it is right now. There is a lot of stability in the United States, and I have faith in our institution", said Al-Mussawi.

Holm turned to the EU Deputy for input on next EU election with the extreme right on the rise.

We will need to see how this plays out
Deputy Chief of Mission EU Delegation to Norway, Tarvo Kungla

"Democracy is the EU's core value. The fact that we have free elections is already a sign of a living democracy. And I see interest from young people, and we are trying to put the message out to vote. But I do not know the outcome of the election", admits Deputy Chief of Mission EU Delegation to Norway, Tarvo Kungla.

Important to Norway

But it looks like it will be a change? asked Holm, not willing to let the issue go.

"We will need to see how this plays out after the elections", said Kungla.

How important is the EU elections for the security in Norway? Holm asked State Secretary Maria Varteressian from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway, who quickly responded with "Very important"!

Second capital

"Throughout 30 years we have had the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement connecting us to The EU single market. We have around 100 additional agreements with the EU, so around 80 percent of our legislation comes from Brussels", explained Varteressian.

ambassadørpanel arctic congress, Arne O. Holm
The Arctic Congress ambassadors panel was moderated by commentator and editor at High North News, Arne O. Holm. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

"We do not like to talk about it, but Brussels is our second capital, and of course it means a lot how the outcome of the elections to the European Parliament will be".

But the Norwegian government is also closely following the trend of decline in democracies.

"Democracy is at its core very fragile because it is about people's trust in the system. This is in decline compared to 34 years ago after the Berlin Wall fell, when democracies flourished and trended", said the State Secretary.

Show it

"It is the complete opposite now, and we also see it in Europe, for example in the war against Ukraine, which is a war about values ​​and the future of a country".

Ambassador Florence Robine, French ambassador to Norway, believes that political leaders must show people what democracy is really about on a daily basis, in order to save it.

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Arne O. Holm also challenged the Indian ambassador on the country's close cooperation with Russia.

"Each country has its own logic, reason and diplomatic relations with other countries. Our priorities are different from others", said the Indian Ambassador to Norway Dr. Acquino Vimal.

"With Ukraine, we stand for peace and dialogue. All conflict should be called to an end with dialogue. I do not see the conflict here, and I do not think countries prefer war or conflict", said Vimal evasively.

The war

Do you understand India's point of view? Holm asked the American representative.

"It is not our place to decide whether that is the right or wrong approach", the US Deputy said diplomaticly, but adding:

"As long as that countrys approach towards Russia does not negatively affect Ukraine's ability to win this war."

"If you can be of help and not a hindrance, I do not see any reason why we would stand in the way. But obviously our view is quite different", said Jamal Al-Mussawi from the US Embassy in Norway.

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