Obama to Welcome Nordic Leaders to the White House

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
May 13, 2016 Updated: May 13, 2016

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama is slated to meet with the leaders of five Nordic countries for a summit the White House is billing as a welcome meeting of like minds.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are due to welcome the leaders of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark at a Friday morning ceremony at the White House, beginning a day of statecraft that will culminate with a lavish state dinner.

The White House is casting the rare multi-lateral summit as something of a diplomatic walk in the park compared to recent, more contentious sit-downs in the Middle East, or even Europe. Obama tends to see eye-to-eye with Nordic leaders on foreign affairs and humanitarian efforts, and has taken to holding the region up as a model global citizen.

“The president often says, ‘Why can’t all countries be like the Nordic countries?'” said Charles Kupchan, senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council. In the Nordic countries, “not only do you have a part of the world that is extremely stable and Democratic and liberal, you have a part of the world that is peaceful and that is contributing to peace and to the humanitarian agenda and to many of the interests the United States cares about.”

Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are part of the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group. Denmark and Norway have contributed nearly as many troops on the ground in Iraq as Germany.

That campaign will be a large part of the conversation Friday. Kupchan said the leaders planned to discuss additional contributions to the fight, as well as funding for the struggling Iraqi government.

Also on the agenda is the handling of the refugees fleeing the violence in the Middle East. Nordic countries, particularly Sweden and Denmark, have accepted far more refugees on a per capita basis than the U.S., which continues to struggle to meet its target of 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. Kupchan said the leaders would likely discuss a long-term and “systematic” plan for managing migrant flows in Europe.

Obama last met with the region’s leaders during a visit to Stockholm in September 2013. The leaders slated to attend Friday are Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, prime minister of Iceland; Lars Lokke Rasmussen, prime minister of Denmark; Stefan Lofven, prime minister of Sweden; Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway; and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press