National News

Odvar Nordli, a Cold War Leader of Norway, Dies at 90

Posted January 10, 2018 6:27 p.m. EST

Odvar Nordli, who stepped down as prime minister of Norway after a five-year term amid opposition over his Cold War agreement to stockpile United States weapons in his country, died Tuesday in Oslo. He was 90.

His death was announced by the Norwegian government. The cause was prostate cancer.

Nordli, a career Labor Party politician who was prime minister from 1976 to 1981, supported full-employment programs and increased social welfare services while presiding over the expansion of Norway’s offshore oil production. In 1977, a blowout of a well disgorged tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the North Sea.

But it was his actions as a staunch supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and as an advocate of heightened military security in Europe that largely alienated him from his party’s left wing. Opponents said his decision to let the United States store heavy weapons near the Soviet border would only increase tensions with Moscow.

He resigned in 1981, citing health problems. Doctors had advised him to take a two-month break from politics, he said at the time, but he concluded that resignation would better serve his party’s interests.

He was succeeded by Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first woman to serve as prime minister of a Scandinavian country.

Erna Stolberg, the current prime minister, who was in Washington this week to meet with President Donald Trump, described Nordli in a statement as “a central politician” from the post-World War II period.

Nordli was born on Nov. 23, 1927, in Tangen, a village in the municipality of Stange, in the southeastern county of Hedmark, which adjoins Sweden. He was the only child of Line Handler Eugen Nordli and Marie Jorgensen.

He married Marit Haraseth in 1953. There was no immediate information on his survivors.

Nordli served in the Norwegian army after World War II, stationed in occupied Germany from 1947 to 1948. After graduating from the University of Oslo, he worked as an accountant for local government.

In 1951, at 23, he was elected to the Stange municipal council; 10 years later he ascended to the Storting, or parliament, where he represented Hedmark County until 1985. He was the minister of local government and labor from 1971 to 1972.

When the Labor Party chose him as prime minister, it held a shaky 62-seat plurality in the 155-member Storting. When he resigned, Labor had a one-vote majority in a coalition with the Socialist Left Party.

As prime minister Nordli advocated a progressive social-democratic platform, including full sick pay; liberalized the nation’s abortion laws; and empowered organized labor.

He failed, however, to secure a pact under which Norway would have granted oil concessions and cash in exchange for Swedish lumber and a 40 percent stake in the automaker Volvo.

After his term as prime minister, he was the parliament’s vice president until 1985 and served as county governor of Hedmark from 1985 until his retirement in 1993.

His resignation as prime minister in 1981 had not been unexpected. The health problems he cited were real. But the resignation occurred more abruptly than he had planned: His party had beaten him to the announcement. He was said to have first heard about his decision on the radio while sitting down to dinner.