His office is on the second floor of the Norwegian Embassy. The building, opposite the U.S. Naval Observatory and next to the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States (the “Vatican Embassy”), is home to both the Norwegian Embassy and the Ambassador’s residence.
Asked what a typical day in the life of an ambassador looks like, he says, “Every day offers something new and exciting. The Embassy here in D.C. is Norway’s largest with over 50 staff, which makes it an incredibly dynamic workplace,” and to illustrate he ticks off a few of the things he has scheduled for that day alone: a visit from a Norwegian Ministers and his delegation, an Embassy staff meeting and a couple of cultural events to attend.
“However, the biggest part of my job is to meet with policy- and decision-makers of the various U.S. governmental branches to promote Norwegian economic and political interests in the U.S. and to support Norway’s engagement with the U.S. on various bilateral, international and global issues. I frequently also meet with various interest groups, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, think tanks and other institutions or individuals connected to matters concerning Norway here in America. It is my job to make sure Norway’s best interests are upheld and pushed forward,” he says. Amb. Aas adds that he also places a lot of emphasis on staying in touch with the 6 million Norwegian Americans in the U.S. “Their Norwegian heritage, combined with a deep understanding of the American culture, makes them a highly valued group,” he says.
When Aas presented his credentials to President Barack Obama, he could already look back on a distinguished career with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since his start in 1983, Aas has been stationed in Chile, Switzerland, Belgium, and Kabul, where he served as Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for two years. “The contrast between America and Afghanistan is stark,” he says. “In the U.S., people dream of success; in Afghanistan, people dream of surviving. There is much to learn from both places.”
The Ambassador is a firm believer in communication, regardless of where he is based. “Keeping in touch, sharing ideas, reaching out – to people, communities, nations – we need to keep talking to each other if we are going to be able to work together to reach our common goals. Solving problems and building stable and prosperous societies requires dialogue, understanding and mutual trust,” he says, and right now his priority is to make sure Norway’s new right-wing coalition government’s interests are heard in America.
“We will work in line with the new government’s political platform. Norway has close ties with the U.S. on a broad set of political, economic and social issues, and it is essential that we remain a visible and active partner. I am especially looking forward to working with Norwegian business relations in the U.S., as well as preserving our military interests and helping to promote the wide range of contemporary culture Norway has to offer,” he says.
Having most recently served as Political Director for the Foreign Ministry in Oslo, Amb. Aas should be well equipped for the task. “Working as the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States is an immense privilege. The U.S. remains our closest international friend and ally, and the U.S. will always be a highly valued strategic partner for Norway,” the ambassador says. He underlines that even though he is far away from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ headquarters in Oslo, their working relationship remains close. He also maintains close ties with the Norwegian Consulate Generals and Consuls in America, calling their knowledge of local issues “priceless.”
Amb. Aas says that his relocation to America has been more than manageable. “It is not a big culture shock for a Norwegian to move to Washington, D.C. This is a very international city, and I am really impressed with how friendly and welcoming the Americans are.”
Follow the Ambassador on Twitter: @kareraas