Security situation in Europe has undergone long-term change

Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide met on Wednesday with US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel in Washington, D.C. The main topics were Iraq and Ukraine, but the NATO Wales Summit and further development of the alliance were also discussed.

Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide met on Wednesday with US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel in Washington, D.C. The main topics were Iraq and Ukraine, but the NATO Wales Summit and further development of the alliance were also discussed.

“Secretary Hagel and I agree that the situation in Iraq is very serious,” says Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide. “The conflicts in the Middle East are increasingly interconnected. The situation in Iraq and Syria is cause for great concern. In particular we now see a major humanitarian disaster with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons.”

Serious consequences

The crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s violations of international law have changed European security policy. Russia has shown both the willingness and ability to use military force to advance its national interests. This poses a major challenge to European security, with serious consequences for future relations with Russia.

“We discussed, among other things, how the security picture in Europe has changed as a result of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea,” says Eriksen Søreide.

“We also explored how the recent events should influence NATO. The alliance should be used more effectively as forum for political consultation. It’s crucial that we agree on a security approach that has a unifying effect in Europe and across the Atlantic.”

Military cooperation must be oriented once again to member states’ own security. Although an actual military threat to NATO remains unlikely, the alliance should reinforce its collective defence efforts. The United States and Norway believe that the measures NATO is currently developing – for both the short-term and the longer-term – are correct.

“There should never be any doubt that we stand united on the security of NATO member countries,” the defence minister asserts.

NATO’s future

The upcoming NATO summit in Wales, to be held in September, was also discussed in the meeting between Secretary Hagel and Minister of Defence Eriksen Søreide. The summit will cover three main subjects: NATO’s future development, the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the United States, and events in Afghanistan.

“This is going to be an important meeting for NATO’s future,” says Eriksen Søreide. “Our mechanisms for political and military cooperation must be re-evaluated, especially in light of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. At the same time, many NATO countries find themselves in a difficult financial situation, so it’s natural to discuss burden sharing. The United States has communicated clearly its view that European allies must assume a greater share of responsibility for their own security. Norway shares this objective, though we recognise that devoting more resources to defence and security is a major challenge for all countries. This topic was also on the agenda when I met Secretary Hagel here in February of this year. We must try to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets while working harder to ensure that those budgets are spent on the right modern capabilities.”

Norway has long held that the alliance must give more priority to collective defence and to its own neighbourhood. Over time, the alliance has lost important capabilities related to this core task.

“This Norwegian initiative has gradually received a substantial degree of acknowledgement, which has been reinforced since the crisis in Ukraine began. Secretary Hagel mentioned it specifically during our conversation today,” says Eriksen Søreide.

“It is important to emphasise that neither Secretary Hagel nor I see a contradiction between strengthening NATO’s capacity for collective defence and its commitment to crisis management. NATO and the member states must remain able to contribute to international crisis management operations. On Monday it became clear that the last containers of chemical warfare agents had been removed from Syria. That operation has been a success, and it’s a good example of how smaller allies can contribute on issues of importance to the entire world.”

Press release from the American Forces Press Service