NATO at a Crossroad: Views from NATO HQ and Norway

Minister of Defence Odd Roger Enoksen:

Dear Deputy Secretary General, Mircea. Welcome to Norway, the Northern Flank of NATO.
And thank you Kate, the panel and the participants.
Let me start by addressing the near future.

The situation in Europe has not been as tense since the Cold War. The Russian military build-up around Ukraine and the demands to the US and NATO, represents a shift in the security conditions in Europe.
This affects Norway as well. We follow the situation closely, with great concern, and in close contact with our Allies.
Peace and security can not be taken for granted. The ongoing large-scale Russian military build-up is a stark reminder of that. Placing a hundred thousand Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s border, is not an acceptable way of performing diplomacy.
It is not acceptable when large states try to limit small states’ ability to act as free democracies. Norway has always supported strong multilateral organizations and a rules-based world order.

Every country has the right to choose its security alignment. As a small democracy, we understand the concerns of our Nordic non-aligned neighbours. They are not actively seeking membership of NATO, but want to determine this themselves.

Let me be clear; Russia is responsible for the increased tension close to the Ukrainian borders. It is up to Russia to reduce the tension by withdrawing its forces.

Russia’s attempts to block future NATO expansion and its cooperation with Ukraine are unacceptable and they are not in line with the international rule of law.

To de-escalate the situation it is important to use established international mechanisms. NATO should be the main arena for coordinating a Western response towards Russia. The Alliance has shown cohesion in this critical situation and both the US and NATO have signaled a willingness for further dialogue.

Norway follows the situation in the High North closely as we have done for a long time. We contribute to the Alliance with situational awareness, presence and stability.

From Norway, the conflict in Ukraine can seem far away. At the same time, Russian military modernization and activity have been very visible in our areas over the last years.

I am referring to Russian strategic signaling, or their show of force, in areas close to Norway. Russian maritime forces have a high level of activity in the High North, including tests of new advanced weapon systems. We expect this to continue.

The increasing number of advanced submarines and the expected deployment of hypersonic anti-ship missiles present an increasing challenge.

Our key concern is Russia’s increasing ability to reduce NATO’s freedom of movement and to disrupt transatlantic sea lines of communication. This is a strategic challenge to Allied security, and it is of concern to all of Europe.

Russia’s military exercise ZAPAD last year, demonstrated how Russia continues to increase its military capabilities. We observed extensive maritime activity in the High North and a considerable build-up of forces on the Kola-peninsula.

In twenty seventeen, we witnessed a transfer of forces to the peninsula on a scale we had not seen before. With this, Russia demonstrated ability to move large forces rapidly, and over a great distance. This means that warning times have been significantly reduced.

The deteriorating security situation has been ongoing for several years, but I would describe the situation we are in now as more severe than in a long time.

For Norway, this means that we need to continue building a strong national defense.

At the same time, NATO remains the cornerstone of Norwegian security. A strong NATO is more important than ever.

The ability to respond to a crisis is all about having the right forces in the right place at the right time.

We need a well-functioning NATO Command Structure, an adapted force structure and updated contingency plans.

The implementation of the Deterrence and Defence Concept for the Euro-Atlantic Alliance is important and we will continue our contribution to the military adaptation of the Alliance.

In March this year, Norway will host exercise Cold Response. We expect about thirty thousand Norwegian and Allied soldiers to take part in the exercise.

We have a long tradition of hosting major allied and multinational military exercises in a demanding arctic environment. We look forward to welcoming our allies and partners for what will be the main exercise activity for many nations this year.

The exercise will have a challenging scenario. It will test allied forces ability to reinforce Norway and our own ability to receive these reinforcements. An essential part of the exercise is to test and validate allied and national defense plans.

Let me make a last few points on the long-term security of the Alliance.

The new Strategic Concept, which is to be decided in Madrid in June, will have an important bearing of NATO’s priorities in the future.

Our defence of key principles, such as support of democratic values, and a rules-based international order, must be in the forefront.

The latest developments in Europe have clearly shown that it is more important than ever that we strengthen our deterrence and defence posture. This will be a Norwegian priority as we approach the NATO Summit.

We have made many important decisions in the Alliance over the past years. This has strengthened our ability to collectively defend our member states.

We also need strong solutions for common funding and the ambitions in the Defence Investment Pledge (DIP) is as important as ever.

This leads me to my final point; When we talk about our security environment, an integral part is how emerging and disruptive technologies influence this environment.

New technologies in the hands of our adversaries could render current defense investments obsolete or less effective. On the other hand, innovative use of new technologies in the Alliance will give us an advantage.

Norway will continue to invest in Research and Development, so that we have a continued technological edge within the Alliance. In that regard, we welcome NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA). We are currently exploring the possibilities of contributing to this initiative, as well as to the NATO Innovation Fund.

We must also look closely into the consequences of new threats. Cyber threats, hybrid threats, and the ongoing space race extend the range of threats we currently face.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from the panelist and you in the audience. ……

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