Obama hosts summit of Nordic leaders

Washington —His fellow Democrats may be arguing about whether to hold up places like Denmark and Norway as liberal utopias, but President Barack Obama isn’t hesitating.
Apparently well past concerns about being branded a socialist, Obama on Friday celebrated five Nordic nations as models of reliability, equality, generosity, responsibility, even personal happiness.
As he welcomed a group of Nordic leaders to the White House, he owned up to thinking perhaps the small, havens of social liberalism should take the reins every now and then.
He joked: “Why don’t we just put all these small countries in charge for a while.”
The remarks opened a White House summit with the leaders of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark. Obama and the leaders are due to discuss a slate of issues weighing heavily on the region — including concerns about Russian aggression, long-term plans for managing the flow of refugees in Europe and contributions to the campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
The White House is casting the rare multilateral summit as something of a diplomatic walk in the park compared to recent, more contentious sit-downs in the Middle East, or even Europe. Where Obama often is tasked with nudging reluctant partners to contribute more to international partnerships, the Nordic leaders, he said, are willing partners and ready to “punch above their weight.”
Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are part of the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group. Denmark and Norway each have contributed nearly as many troops on the ground in Iraq as Germany.
That campaign will be a large part of the conversation Friday. White House official have 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. Charles Kupchan, director for European affairs at the National Security Council, said the leaders would likely discuss a long-term and “systematic” plan for managing migrant flows in Europe.
The meeting comes during a U.S. political season in which the Nordic countries have made surprising cameos. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have publicly debated whether Denmark, Sweden and Norway should be a model for the U.S. policy on worker’s rights and paid family leave. Clinton notably dismissed the notion in a debate last year, declaring “We are not Denmark.”— AP

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