“NATO in an Era of Global Competition” - A Norwegian perspective

Atlantic Council Conference, June 25th 2014, Washington DC

Atlantic Council Conference, June 25th 2014, Washington DC

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Excellencies. Ladies and Gentlemen. Dear friends.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you this morning. It is especially rewarding for me to give this address at the Atlantic Council. The Norwegian Ministry of Defense has a long-standing relationship with the Council. Our cooperation has been of great value for the Ministry, and for me personally. During my first trip as Defense Minister to Washington in January, the first thing I did was to attend a round-table here at the Council.

18 months ago, when we formalized our cooperation, we felt that it was important to work with policy communities in Washington that still focus on Europe and transatlantic security.

The value of the work that we have done over this period, has been clearly demonstrated over the past few months. Stability and security in Europe has again become a highly relevant issue. I am convinced that the expertise that exists here at the Council, will become even more important in the future.

I look forward to continuing our cooperation beyond this current project. I also look forward to reading to final project report that has been issued today, which I hear has some very good recommendations.

The changed security landscape in Europe
The last time I was in Washington was in January, when I laid out my government´s view on transatlantic security. Since then a lot has happened. In Ukraine, we have had a stark reminder that peace and stability in Europe cannot be taken for granted. In my humble opinion, the Norwegian policy has in many ways been validated.

The reason why I say that Ukraine has been a "stark reminder" is because, unfortunately, many had thought that Europe had entered a post-conflict era. There has been a dominating notion that in Europe concepts such as military incursions and illegal annexation of another state´s territory, only exist in history books. This notion has been proven false. Or – as Fred said – history had not ended in Europe.

I sense an international debate on whether the situation in Ukraine is a "crisis", or whether it signifies a fundamental shift. My view is that this is not a temporary crisis, but that the European security landscape has changed. Regardless of whether we are able to find a political solution to the Ukraine crisis in the near term, the change that has occurred in Europe is enduring.

I very much agree with General Scowcroft´s point that we need to look at the world as it is, and how it is likely to develop in the future.

No matter how the current situation is resolved, one important fact remains: NATO has a neighbor that has demonstrated the capability and political will to use military force to annex territory in Europe. While this does not necessarily mean that there is a direct threat towards other European states, this fact needs to be taken into account as we establish NATO´s future political and military posture.

This fact has profound implications for NATO. Norway has argued for many years that NATO needs to strengthen its collective defense capabilities. In fact, we issued a policy-paper in 2008 – before the Georgia crisis- that addressed this issue.

We argued in 2008 that NATO needed to improve its ability to credibly address allied nations' security concerns, regardless of where they stem from.

We also stressed that NATO needed to re-focus on security challenges closer to home, applying to all parts of NATO. This principle still holds true.

Currently, NATO is rightly focusing much of our efforts in Europe in the North and East. However, it is important to note that there are serious security issues in other regions of Europe. Iraq and Syria remind us that the Middle East is an area that borders NATO. Also, the volatile situation in North Africa causes concern for a number of our allies in Southern Europe.

These areas also require allied attention. NATO must be able to address the full spectrum of security challenges, across the entire NATO area. And we must be able to do this concurrently.

So the need to re-invigorate NATO pre-dates the current crisis. Still, the situation in Ukraine lends more urgency to this point. Norway has pointed to a number of areas where we believe improvements should be made, and have suggested some specific proposals on how to achieve this. The fundamental principle is to strengthen our ability to conduct the full spectrum of alliance missions, including collective defense. I want to highlight five key points:

  1. Firstly, the alliance needs better situational awareness. We need better insight into the surrounding security environment. It is a paradox that NATO seems to be "caught off guard" when crises such as Crimea and Georgia occur. Our lack of sufficient situational awareness damages our credibility, and impairs our ability to provide for collective security.

    To address this deficiency we believe that there needs to be better sharing of intelligence among allies. Furthermore, the different NATO commands should have distinct and clear regional responsibilities. National headquarters need to be linked up with NATO´s headquarters. This would allow nations to feed operational pictures directly into NATO.

  2. Secondly, NATO needs a more robust and effective command structure, that can conduct the full spectrum of alliance tasks in an effective way.

    Linkages between national and NATO commands also play an important role in a collective defense scenario. In a real crisis – such as an Article V situation – we would expect SACEUR and SHAPE to assume command. However, the national commands would have to play an important role as well. In order to ensure effective command and control in a time of crisis, we need much closer links between national and NATO headquarters.

  3. Thirdly, NATO needs to take a hard look at the readiness levels of our forces. During the past decade, many allies have structured their forces so as to generate smaller contributions to crisis management operations out of area. We have generally not focused on the availability of the full spectrum of forces and capabilities; such as we might need in a time of crisis or war on NATO territory.

    As a start we should review current readiness requirements for the NATO Reaction Force. "Rapid Reaction" for NATO should mean days, not months. In order to conduct collective defense operations, SACEUR needs to have available the proper forces and capabilities – when and where needed.

  4. My fourth point is that NATO needs to update contingency plans. Norway has argued this point for years, and I am glad to note that there is now real progress in this area. For us this is not necessarily related to the current crisis.

    Our point has rather been that – as an organization tasked with providing collective defense – NATO needs credible plans to actually conduct collective defense operations. It really is as simple as that.

  5. My fifth and final point is that we need to do more training and exercising within the Alliance. The Connected Forces Initiative provides a good starting point. Exercises need to be based on realistic scenarios. We need to exercise our ability to conduct high-end full-spectrum capabilities. Future exercises need to provide for reassurance and deterrence, and focus on interoperability.

    And as some of you might know, Norway has offered to host the NATO High Visibility Event Exercise in 2018. NATO is moving from a period of high operational tempo to a period of high exercise and training training tempo. It is important that the policy keeps up with this development. "How, where and when" we train and exercise are important political questions. We need sound policies in place as we develop our the CFI concept further.

I believe that focusing on these five areas will be crucial in making NATO into a more capable, relevant and robust military alliance.

Investing in the transatlantic relationship

In order to succeed in achieving this goal, we need to focus on the health of the transatlantic relationship. I want to address two key factors in the transatlantic relationship.

US leadership
Firstly, one of the foundations of the transatlantic relationship is US leadership and engagement in Europe. The US response to the current crisis, particularly to reassure Allies, has been robust. The European Reassurance Package sends a clear signal, both to Allies and to Russia.

The events this spring has shown the value of NATO as a political alliance. Through NATO, Europe and North America have demonstrated unity and sent a powerful message to Russia.

The issue of US leadership in Europe is very much an issue of political leadership. The US role in the formation of the Alliance is the prime example of this. But also the end of the Cold War, NATO's first out-of-area operations in the Balkans and our undertaking the ISAF-mission are examples.

When fundamental changes to the European security environment have happened in the past, US leadership has been crucial. This is described well by James Baker in his book "The Politics of Diplomacy", which deals with the end of the Cold War. He explains that the administration feared after the collapse of the Soviet Union: "that the centripetal forces operating on the West were likely to be just as strong as the centrifugal ones". The conclusion in Washington was that that the United States would have to lead in Europe, and manage the post- Cold War transformation.

This is an important lesson from history. As we face a new fundamental shift in the security landscape in Europe, this type of US leadership will be as important as ever. So to sum up this point, and to be absolutely clear: US leadership is needed, it is desired and it is welcomed by European Allies.

Europe's commitment
But US leadership cannot be taken for granted. This brings me to the second point on the future of the transatlantic relationship; the question of how Europeans can contribute more to the partnership.

At the NATO Defense Ministerials earlier in June, Allies were in full agreement that the US plans for reassurance in Europe are highly welcome. Norway shares this appreciation. There is a risk that we Europeans will interpret this as a signal that the US are stepping up, and that therefore Europe in some sense is off the hook. On the contrary, I view this as a further challenge to Europe – accentuating the need for us to respond by increasing Europe´s contributions to collective security.

Europe needs to invest more in our own security. I mentioned earlier that the US has demonstrated its commitment to collective defense in Europe. A related question is whether European allies can say the same. Looking back at the past five years, where Europe has made deep cuts to its defense budgets – for reasons related to the financial crisis – it could be argued that Europe needs to re-commit to collective defense.

There are different ways to achieve a better burden-sharing and a strengthening of the European pillar of the Alliance. Multinational cooperation is always challenging, but it can be an effective tool. The key is to maintain focus on the actual capability development. NATO's Framework Nations Concept and the UK Joint Expeditionary Force concept are interesting for Norway, because they actually address capability shortfalls and aim to provide real increases in capability.

Another example of how we can improve burden-sharing is for Europe to engage more in those areas where the US has security interests, such as in the Asia/Pacific. Norway has not criticized the US for its strategy to rebalance towards Asia/Pacific. On the contrary, we believe that US engagement in this part of the world is natural, and indeed that it is crucial for global stability. What happens in the Asia/Pacific Region will have global impact, and consequences also for Norway. Therefore we need to be engaged.

It is for this reason that Norway this year, for the first time, will participate in the RIMPAC Exercise. Our frigate is a small contribution in the larger scheme of the exercise, and will probably not change this course of the exercise. But the skills and experiences we gain by exercising with allies and partners are important both for Norwegian and for our mutual security.

Our participation also sends a broader message: Norway cares about US security interests, even half way across the globe. This is what being allies is all about. And for us it is the very core of collective security. I look forward to learning more about the situation in the Pacific theatre – and how Norway can be supportive – when I visit our frigate in Hawaii next week. Duty calls, and I have been answered the call...

In order to fully address the issue of better burden-sharing, there is no escaping the fact the European allies need to spend more money on defense. Many have said the same earlier, and I am certain I am not the last to do so. When sitting – not only outgoing – US Defense Secretaries has this as an introduction in their speaking points, we need to listen.

As a start, we need to stop the decline in defense spending. Cuts will need to be reversed. We need to agree on a way in which we – over time – achieve the goal of spending 2% of our GDP on defense, and 20% of our defense budgets on investment. I realize this is a huge challenge for all countries, and will demand tough choices everywhere. But we can no longer dodge this issue.

However, it will take time. Until we get there, we need to make sure that the money we do spend is spent on the right capabilities. The spending targets we set make little sense if we are spending the right amount of money, but on the wrong things.

Norway has chosen to transform our armed forces, and invest in high-end capabilities such as transport aircraft, new Aegis frigates, F-35 combat aircraft, a full modernization of our Army and we are developing a new family of highly capable precision-guided missiles, the JSM and the NSM. We believe this constitutes important contributions not only to our national security, but to the overall capabilities of the Alliance.

Conclusion
There is reason to believe that the changes to the security landscape in Europe will be enduring. NATO faces a new situation, wherein we will have to re-assess our assumptions about Russia and its intentions.

This has significant consequences for NATO. We need to re-invigorate NATO. We need an alliance that is robust, capable and credible. And that has the ability on short notice to perform the full range of NATO´s tasks, including collective defense.

The effectiveness of the alliance depends on the health of the transatlantic relationship. This in turn is dependent on strong US leadership and commitment to European security, and on a demonstrated willingness on the part of Europe to invest more in our own defense. Norway will continue to invest in relevant capabilities, and support a better transatlantic burden-sharing. As I have said before, collective security is about more than what the US can do for Europe.

I have described the challenges that NATO faces, and offered some suggested solutions. I know I may come across as gloomy and pessimistic. As a Norwegian Lutheran this is perhaps as it should be... But I believe that we need be frank in our assessment of what needs improvement and where there are deficiencies.

I am a strong believer in NATO. I am a strong believer in the transatlantic relationship. As the primary global military and political Alliance, NATO has been a source of stability for more than 60 years.

The need for a strong NATO will increase in the time ahead. I believe that the alliance will continue to ensure stability and collective security in the North Atlantic area.

There is no institution like NATO, which can form a common transatlantic approach to current and future challenges. That is what makes NATO unique, and that is why we – both Europe and the USA – need to invest in the future of the Alliance.

Thank you for your attention.