As president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office and settle into the presidential chair as commander-in-chief, U.S. ambassadors across the world are preparing their resignations. Among them is the U.S. ambassador to Norway, Sam Heins — who has yet to settle comfortably into his post.
While some diplomats might be sitting tight for a few more years, political appointees in diplomatic positions such as ambassadorships are writing their letters of resignation to be offered to the incoming president. This is how it works in the political world of Washington, D.C. Just as President Obama put in place his own appointees, often people who helped him on the road to the presidency, so will President-elect Trump.
However, there are some current ambassadors the president-elect should keep in their positions. One is the recently appointed ambassador to Norway, Heins.
Ambassador Heins was finally confirmed by the U.S. Senate less than a year ago, on Feb. 11, 2016, after waiting seven months under a political hold that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, held over Heins’ head due to Cruz’s differences with Obama on the Iranian nuclear deal. Heins finally took office last March 10, when he presented his credentials to King Harald V of Norway.
By that point, the seat of the U.S. ambassador had been vacant for 869 days, due to the embarrassing failure to confirm Obama’s first nominee, George Tsunis, who was a poor choice who barely knew anything about the country in which he was to represent the United States.
After such a disastrous first nominee and a long wait of more than two years, Sam Heins came in as a redeemer to repair the humiliation and continue building on the strong ties between Norway and America.
The United States and Norway have a long-standing strong relationship, well-represented in Heins. He’s a man who has studied Norway and lived most of his life in Minnesota, a state many consider an extension of Norway in America due to its being home to the largest population of Norwegian-Americans, more than 800,000.
During the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II, the Norwegian royal family took refuge in Washington, D.C., at President Franklin Roosevelt’s invitation. The two nations’ bond has continued to grow ever since through everything from educational exchanges to economic ties to the NATO alliance, of which Jens Stoltenberg, former prime minister of Norway, is now the secretary-general. The two countries also have mutual membership in other international organizations.
Norway is a strong nation, a leading diplomat in a world of chaos, as we witnessed in the negotiations for the Columbian peace deal. It’s a nation that Trump should continue building a relationship with, especially now that Norway, as of January, will be home to over 300 U.S. Marines. Norway can and will be an ally to Washington, so long as the relationship is mutual.
As a Norwegian studying and living in Minnesota for the past four years, I ask the president-elect not to accept Ambassador Heins’ resignation and instead keep him on, if not for the next four years, at least until a new ambassador is appointed and confirmed. It would be a grave mistake to leave Norway yet again without a U.S. ambassador amid continued turmoil and uncertainty in the world, from Russian aggression to the staggering economy of Europe due to low oil prices and Brexit.
Sam Heins has barely gotten his feet wet as ambassador, being in office for barely 10 months. As an American from Minnesota who understands the strong ties between our two nations, he will do much good for the U.S.-Norway relationship. It would only show weakness to leave the embassy empty once more.
Anna Kvinge, from Jessheim, Norway, is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.