Ambassadors from Norway and Finland forge ties in Seattle, offer glimmer of hope on cybersecurity

Mikko Hautala, Finland’s ambassador to the U.S., and Anniken Krutnes, Norway’s ambassador to the U.S., share a moment of levity on stage at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle during a visit this week to Washington state. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

The green economy, maritime innovation, and wireless technology were some of the issues on the agenda this week as Anniken Krutnes, Norway’s ambassador to the United States, and her Finnish counterpart, Mikko Hautala, visited the Seattle region.

Both were seeking to lay the foundation for business and political cooperation between their respective countries and Washington state. Each spent time with a variety of business, government, and community leaders during their visits.

Krutnes met with environmental and cybersecurity leaders at Microsoft, spent time with students at the University of Washington, and visited Tacoma to discuss electric-powered ferries as part of a focus on green technology.

Hautala visited Tacoma to discuss plans for a 5G wireless edge computing network, toured port facilities, and found unique signs of Finnish entrepreneurial activity.

The ambassadors also appeared together Monday at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, the city’s traditional Scandinavian enclave, fielding questions on environmental issues, economic development, and political relations between the United States and their countries. It was part of a series of events on Nordic innovation at the museum. Watch the full video above.

State-sponsored cyberattacks: Apart from their shared interest in economic development, each ambassador offered a unique perspective on cybersecurity.

Krutnes was part of a United Nations group that issued a recent report on cybersecurity, focusing on solutions to state-sponsored cyberattacks.

Hautala was previously ambassador to Russia, Finland’s neighbor to the east, widely believed responsible for the Solarwinds breach and other attacks.

In separate interviews with GeekWire, each ambassador expressed cautious optimism about the potential for progress against state-sponsored cyberattacks.

“All the major economies, including the Russians, are becoming more dependent on this digital infrastructure,” Hautala said. “So it means that everybody is vulnerable. So I think it will give the countries and governments a motivation to somehow regulate these activities. … I think it’s becoming a difficult situation for everybody.”

Krutnes said world leaders seem to have a greater recognition of the severity of the problem than they did in the past.

“This is not a domestic problem. It’s a global problem,” she said. “So you have to work with allies on it.”

Nokia and Microsoft: During our interview, I couldn’t help but ask Hautala how he feels about Microsoft after the whole Nokia debacle.

Once a dominant maker of mobile phones and a crown jewel of Finland’s technology industry, Nokia entered into an ill-fated partnership with Microsoft’s Windows Phone business in 2011 before selling its smartphone business in 2014 to the Redmond tech giant, only to see Microsoft dismantle the deal a year later.

Hautala displayed his experience as a diplomat in his response.

“I’m a Darwinist, in the sense that what happened happened because of certain flaws in Nokia’s company culture,” Hautala said. “And this has been widely explained by key persons of that time, of that era. So if you make mistakes, they usually can’t be undone. I’m not taking sides against any companies.”

Nokia remains a major technology company, focusing on telecommunications and licensing its brand for mobile phones.

The U.S. on the world stage: One of the best questions during the National Nordic Museum event was during the audience Q&A by Kellen Hoard, a student at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Wash., who works on the Nordic News student newspaper. He asked the ambassadors to address international concerns about the ability to trust the long-term commitments made by the U.S., given the potential for a future administration to overturn them.

Hautala said it’s only natural for domestic considerations to impact foreign policy, pointed out that the U.S. isn’t unusual in this regard, and explained that it’s the job of ambassadors to anticipate these kinds of changes.

Krutnes earned a round of applause from the audience with her succinct answer: “We’re very happy to see U.S. back on the world stage,” she said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

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Civic Anniken krutnes Finland Mikko hautala National nordic museum Norway