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West Jordan Journal

Locals discuss international relations with visiting foreign dignitaries

Feb 01, 2018 03:52AM ● By Ruth Hendricks

Ambassador Lars Lose of Denmark, Lord Browne of the UK and Julianne Smith with the Center for a New American Security discuss international relations at the Viridian. (Ruth Hendricks/City Journals)

Is NATO obsolete? How can the average person living in Utah have any impact on international relations? These were some questions posed by local residents to visiting European dignitaries.

The Viridian Event Center hosted a special panel discussion, “Across the Pond, In the Field” on Jan. 11. The discussion aimed to engage new audiences across the country to better understand how people outside Washington, D.C., view transatlantic relationships, trade alliances and other foreign policy issues.

The visit was part of a project from The Center for a New American Security. The visiting dignitaries were H.E. Lars Gert Lose, Ambassador of Denmark to the United States; and Lord Browne of Ladyton (Des Browne), member of the House of Lords and former United Kingdom Defense Minister. The United Kingdom includes Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but Browne hails from Scotland.

The discussion was moderated by Julianne Smith, a director with CNAS, a think-tank in Washington, D.C.

Salt Lake City was one of 12 cities on the tour. Earlier in the day, the visitors had breakfast with a technology council, sat down with 200 students at East High School, met with the mayor of Salt Lake County and met with people at the Deseret News. 

The two men have a running joke between them about who can accumulate more people who claim either Danish or Scottish heritage. “He’s losing badly,” said Browne.

The first issue discussed was NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental alliance between 29 North American and European countries based on the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed after World War II in 1949. NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it can call for military power in response to an attack.

“President Trump has been pushing our European allies to spend more on defense. This is not new,” said Smith. “Many presidents have pushed them to do more. Trump has also said that the alliance is obsolete. It was needed after World War II, but he wonders why we need it now.”

Lose of Denmark said that NATO today is more important than ever, especially in Europe where they are dealing with a very aggressive and uncertain Russia. “We need to stand firm and have a strong position towards Russia,” said Lose. “Without NATO this can’t be done. We live in the neighborhood of Russia, so we feel this very concretely every single day.” 

Lose agreed that there is a problem with budget sharing in NATO. “The U.S. is paying about 70 percent of the budget. We need to step up in Europe.” The alliance goal is for countries to be spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. 

The Danish government just decided to increase their defense budget by 20 percent. “We are still not at the 2 percent goal, but we’re going in right direction,” said Lose. 

Browne agreed. “This complicated and difficult world that we live in generates threats to us that we never imagined we would have to face,” he said. “No matter how big and powerful you are, you can’t face these threats yourself.”

About the NATO budget, Browne said, “Scotland pays more than their 2 percent, but we don’t pay enough. We have depended on the generosity of America to pay for our defense for far too long.” 

Kate, an audience member, asked how we can be more supportive of international relationships in our communities when we live fairly isolated from other countries.

Lose said that we live off of international trade. He saw a statistic that day saying 25 percent of all jobs in Utah were supported by international trade. It’s 75 percent in Denmark. 

“We have a tendency these days to look more inward, with terrorists, climate change, refugees and migrants,” Lose said. “We want to close our borders and keep to ourselves, but that’s not a solution. We need international cooperation more than ever.”

Browne closed with a thought on what we can do about international relations. We can get to know each other and respect the differences. 

“Stop trying to make people be like we are,” said Browne. “Because two things will happen. Either we’ll fall out with them, or if we succeed, it will become the most boring place you ever knew.” Browne wondered why we think differences are a threat. “We can rise above that.”