Three U.S. Senators led by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) visited Norway from August 16-18. Senator McCain stopped in Svalbard and Bodø, and was joined by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and John Barrasso (R-WY) in Oslo. The visit was part of a larger European tour focusing on regional security concerns and U.S. interests.
In Svalbard, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Jim DeHart, Norwegian State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen, Norwegian Ambassador to the United States Kåre Aas, and Norwegian Polar Ambassador Else Berit Eikeland greeted Senator McCain. The group toured Ny-Ålesund, visiting with climate researchers and participating in the daily weather balloon launch. Senator McCain also sailed around Kongsfjord, surveying the retreat of glaciers due to climate change. He was able clearly see the retreat of the glaciers compared to his 2004 visit with then-Senator Hillary Clinton. In Longyearbyen, Senator McCain inspected Governor of Svalbard’s new Arctic Search and Rescue helicopter fleet. Arctic Search and Rescue is a priority for the United States during our Arctic Council Chairmanship.
En-route to Bodø, Senator McCain’s plane was greeted mid-air by two F-16 fighter jets which performed high altitude maneuvers. F-16 pilots are trained in the Senators home state of Arizona. Once on the ground, Senator McCain received a briefing on High North defense from members of the Norwegian Military, and witnessed a scramble drill. The drill demonstrated the F-16 pilots’ ability to take off within fifteen minutes of the alarm.
Joined by Senators Whitehouse and Barrasso in Oslo, the delegation met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende and Minister of Defense Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide where the group discussed U.S.-Norway cooperation in areas such as Russian aggression, NATO, and ISIL. The Senators also traveled to Horten Naval Base where they met with members of the Norwegian Special Forces Operations and witnessed a demonstration of a forced ship boarding.