A world of mistrust

A World of Mistrust Part II

The result has been widespread dissatisfaction among sections of the population. In earlier times, such a development would have benefited the parties on the left of politics, but we are no longer in a normal political state. Rather, everything is turned upside down. The traditional parties have struggled to capture the aforementioned dissatisfaction, which has opened up for protest parties further out on the right. What could have been a classic debate about economic inequality has instead been expressed as identity politics. It is about immigration and resistance to economic integration and attempts at supranational regulation. This does not mean that all supporters of such political parties and movements are ideologically right-wing radicals or so strongly influenced by xenophobia that it borders on racism. They feel they are lagging behind, that the life and security they once had are missing and that their traditional leaders in the established left no longer care about them, but are more concerned with the rights of immigrants and refugees and with defending unpopular economic reforms. It’s still a lot about class, economics and the distribution of material goods, but it is no longer expressed along the traditional right-left axis in politics. The new protest parties on the right benefit from identity politics because they speak most effectively and credibly about this. but it is no longer expressed along the traditional right-left axis in politics. The new protest parties on the right benefit from identity politics because they speak most effectively and credibly about this. but it is no longer expressed along the traditional right-left axis in politics. The new protest parties on the right are profiting from identity politics because they speak most effectively and credibly about it.

5: What does this mean for Norway and Norwegian foreign policy?

In 1974, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Knut Frydenlund expressed the following apt comment, “Norway is a small country in a large and dangerous world”. This is how it was then and this is how it is now. Norway is a small country by world standards. We make a name for ourselves in winter sports most other countries do not care about. We have oil and a reputation as a “nation of peace” among the more well-informed of the world’s inhabitants. So what do we have to fear from what is happening now? Do we not have enough money on the books to manage well through a rough international waters?

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. Well, we are a small country in terms of population, but we have a very open economy that is very integrated into the world economy. The Petroleum Fund is one of the world’s largest investment funds with NOK 7.457 billion in book and investments in 9,000 companies in 75 countries. With this fund, Norway owns 1.3 per cent of the world’s listed companies, 2.4 per cent of all European companies, and in addition a significant amount of securities and building stock.

This is not normal. There is really no one we can compare ourselves with as never before has such a small country, on the fringes of the world system, controlled so much of the world’s total values. According to hyperrestaurant.com, Norway’s position is therefore very special, but this is hardly talked about. But we should, because this has implications for how we should navigate the demanding geopolitical terrain we now face. We just have to realize this: we are not an ordinary European small state, but an oil state that has spread our enormous wealth on various investments around the world. What does this mean for Norway as a foreign policy actor? One thing is for sure: This means that Norway has foreign policy interests far beyond our immediate areas. We do not only provide assistance in poor parts of the world, we are also a significant financial player influencing politics and political choices. We are thus a global player. But what does this mean for Norway?

6: Do we need to reconsider our foreign policy?

We are in the middle of a world of mistrust, and then we have to reflect on who we are and how we best orient ourselves in foreign policy. One place to start is to realize that we have taken it for granted that the liberal world order should continue to dominate. We saw it as a trend that could not be reversed. But it could – and it is far from certain that it will return, at least not immediately. In that case, this means that the world is much less predictable than what we have become accustomed to. This will not be a world without order, but it will not be in line with the expectations we have had of a Western-liberal rule-governed world. What we know the contours of is an international system that is weaker and less suitable for dealing with crises and implementing effective crisis resolution.

Both in Norway and other countries, there is a tendency to hope that the old order will return. However, that is far from certain. Confidence in political authorities is so weakened even in liberal democracies that it is quite possible that what we today see as disorder is the new global norm. The question then becomes how to navigate when global problems such as migration, refugees, terrorism, poverty and climate require extensive international cooperation, while traditionally close allies distance themselves from such cooperation. Since World War II, Norwegian foreign policy has been based on widespread political agreement within the country and massive investments in international cooperation. Now the premises for these strategies are being challenged, for how can one solve through international co-operation a problem that significant parts of the population themselves perceive as created by precisely international co-operation? It is now a matter of finding solutions that restore social contracts not only between populations and elites within the country, but also between states, both those who think alike about the international system, but also with those who have a different approach to international order. We do not need more echo chambers either nationally or internationally, but respectful dialogue, acceptance of different views, flexibility and pragmatism. At the same time, one must not forget that we face challenges that it is in everyone’s interest to find effective and sustainable solutions.

A world of mistrust

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