Speech/statement | Date: 2014-05-12 | Ministry of Defence
For the first time, Norway participates in the world´s biggest naval exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC). To mark the event, IFS and the MoD was inviting to a seminar Monday 12 May. This is the speech held by the Minister of Defence, Ine Eriksen Søreide.
Speech at RIMPAC 2014 Seminar in Oslo May 12, 2014
By Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide
First of all I would like to thank you, Sven, for your kind introduction. I also want to convey my gratitude to your staff for organizing this event. The cooperation between IFS and the Ministry of Defense is long-standing, and we benefit from the expertise that this institute possesses.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today – May 12th 2014 – is a day worth remembering. The Norwegian frigate KNM Fridtjof Nansen departs for the Pacific to participate in world's largest international maritime warfare exercise RIMPAC.This is the first time Norwegian armed forces participate in the RIMPAC exercise, which was arranged for the first time in 1971.
Our participation in this year's RIMPAC Exercise is not a coincidence. It is a result of hard work over a long period of time. I would like to direct a special thank you to our dedicated personnel in the Royal Norwegian Navy and at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington DC. Thanks to your efforts Norway is attending RIMPAC 2014, an exercise that is of important strategic significance for our country.
The Policy Framework
Norwegian participation in RIMPAC is not only a question of one ally participating in another's exercise. It is an issue that is broader and more fundamental. The decision to participate must be seen in light of my government's overall security policy.
My government´s policy is founded on the principle that NATO and Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is the key to Norwegian security and defense policy. The collective commitments and capabilities that NATO provides are fundamental. However, NATO is far more than a military alliance – it is a transatlantic political community of shared values. The Alliance is based on the fundamental idea that liberal democracies – based on their shared values – have decided that our security is stronger when we cooperate collectively. The strength of this simple – yet fundamental – idea was proven during the Cold War. However, it also holds true today. In fact, I believe that the recent events in the Ukraine demonstrate the value of NATO as a political community based on common values.
The transatlantic dimension of NATO lies at its very core. The transatlantic security partnership would not be possible had it not been institutionalized through NATO. By the same token – the success of NATO depends on strong transatlantic ties. In particular, US engagement and leadership in Europe.
My government has – since we took office last October - emphasized the significance of a strong transatlantic relationship. This is important not only for Norwegian security, but for the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area and for global stability.
A further aspect of our policy is the desire to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between Norway and the US. The combination of a strong transatlantic security relationship – institutionalized through NATO – and a strong bilateral relationship with US, lies at the core of Norwegian security. I am glad to say that our bilateral relationship is very good. We have three bilateral agreements for pre-positioning of equipment, with the US Navy, the US Air Force and the US Marine Corps, respectively. All our military services have strong ties to the US, and the relationships grow stronger year by year. This includes cooperation regarding equipment, education, training and exercises as well as joint participation in military operations. I should also mention that the cooperation between our special forces is increasing significantly. However – as with the transatlantic relationship – our bilateral relations cannot be taken for granted. It requires continuous nurturing, and it requires real commitments with real capabilities. So – even if the relationship today is extremely good – my government will continue to invest in our relationship with the US and make it even stronger.
Now that I have described the overall policy context, let me in more detail outline why Norway is participating in RIMPAC – and how this supports my government´s policy.
There are 4 key factors in explaining why participation in RIMPAC is in our interest
Firstly, this is a matter of strengthening our ability to operate together with key allies and partners. This goes for the US in particular, but RIMPAC also gives us an opportunity to strengthen relations with nations that we have had little defense cooperation with in the past. For example Japan, South Korea, India and Australia. As is the case for Norway, China will also participate in the exercise for the first time in 2014.
Close bilateral cooperation fosters mutual there by, increases overall military capability and thus ensures strengthened mutual security. Sending a frigate to RIMPAC is a unique opportunity to forge not only closer relations between our Navy and the US, but also with other partnering navies. The ability to provide mutual security and collective defense depends on us being able to operate jointly. These critical skills, abilities and capabilities are gained by training and exercising together. Norway needs to be present where these activities take place, be that in Europe or further away. I firmly believe that the experiences gained and the lessons learned in exercises such as RIMPAC, will be beneficial to our ability to conduct collective security operations closer to Norwegian shores.
Secondly, we need to look at this within a broader transatlantic framework – including the need for better burden-sharing. We can no longer take the transatlantic relationship for granted. And we cannot take US commitment to European security for granted. I do not doubt or question US commitment to Article V. Rather, I am proposing that a robust transatlantic relationship – so crucial for our mutual security – requires nourishment. It needs engagement and investment from both sides. I would argue that Europe – unfortunately – has not lived up to its commitments. I mentioned earlier that we cannot take the US for granted. I also firmly believe that Europe can not go on expecting the US to shoulder in excess of 70% of defense expenditure in NATO. The key to better burden-sharing – and a sustainable foundation for the future of transatlantic cooperation – is for Europe to do more.
My point is that burden-sharing encompasses more than defense budgets. It is also a matter of demonstrating political will to engage in those areas that affect the security of other allies. That is indeed the true nature of collective security. For too long transatlantic security cooperation has been about what the US can and should do for European security. However, mutual security goes both ways. That means that Europe needs to be willing to engage in those areas where the US has security interests. Our contribution with our frigate to RIMPAC is a way of signaling that we stand ready to support the US, also in areas far away from European shores. Norway stands ready to do our part to strengthen the transatlantic relationship.
The third point I would make is that the Asia-Pacific is of strategic importance to Norway. Indeed, developments in this part of the world will have global effects. I have said before that we can not take security and stability in Europe for granted. The events in Ukraine during the past few months serve as a stark reminder of this. That is why I have argued for a reinvigorated NATO, that places more emphasis on collective defense, deterrence and re-assurance. However, we need to realize the immense significance of the developments in the Asia-Pacific. The rise of China, unresolved territorial claims and rising nationalism in the region are important drivers. I believe that these issues will be resolved peacefully. At the same time, I understand the US need to focus more of its attention in this direction.
What happens in the Asia-Pacific affects us all. Norway is not a key player, nor do we aspire to play a large role. One frigate in one exercise will in and of itself not be crucial. However, there can be no doubt that it is in the strategic interest of Norway to gain better insight into these developments.
Furthermore, it is no coincidence that we are sending a contribution to a maritime exercise. Norway's wealth – in fact the very foundation of our society – is dependent on free access to the world's waterways and oceans. President John F. Kennedy once said: "All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean". This certainly holds true for Norway and Norwegians. Freedom of navigation and freedom of passage – and the upholding of the rule of law on the seas – is our lifeblood. As maritime nation, it is in our interest to work collaboratively with allies and partners in the maritime domain. In this regards, RIMPAC is an excellent opportunity.
Fourthly, our participation allows us to show-case the superior abilities of our Navy, both in terms of technology and personnel. Our Fridtjof Nansen-class with the Aegis system is an extremely versatile platform. Just during the past year, our frigates have been involved in counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden – where our ship was also the command vessel for the NATO force. They have contributed to the removal by sea of chemical agents from Syria, and they have been patrolling off our coast – including in Arctic waters. Now our frigate will be participating in a large, complex multinational exercise with partners and Allies literally on the other side of the world. And in a climate that – to put it mildly - differs significantly from what we are used to at home. The distances travelled and the diverging nature of the missions is truly worthy of reflection. This upcoming mission to participate in RIMPAC demonstrates not only the versatility of the platform itself, but also the superior abilities of the crews. And I would urge Rear Admiral Saunes to convey my admiration and gratitude to the remarkable men and women of the Norwegian Navy.
Furthermore, we will use the opportunity in RIMPAC to demonstrate how the Norwegian defense industry is a global leader within certain critical areas. For one we will showcase the unique capabilities of the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile. During the exercise, Fridtjof Nansen will visit the Pacific Missile Range where the frigate will fire a live Naval Strike Missile (NSM). We also look forward to demonstrating our Sea Protector system, designed for close-area protection of the vessel. These are examples of how Norwegian industrial interests also will benefit from our participation.
In conclusion, some might call it a paradox that we send KNM Fridtjof Nansen 10 000 miles around the globe to participate in an exercise. However, our decision to take part in this year´s RIMPAC exercise is based on a number of strategically important factors. These include security policy, military cooperation and commercial interests.
The bottom line is that our participation in RIMPAC strengthens the collective security of NATO, our mutual security with the US and it also strengthens Norwegian security. The world is changing rapidly, and we are faced with an ever-wider variety of security challenges. Geographical distance, no matter how large, is no longer a protection against these challenges. The only way to approach this new security environment is in a collective manner. As allies – either in Europe or in North America – that means we have to be willing to look beyond our own neighborhood. That is the very essence of collective defense, and that is why we believe that Norway participating in RIMPAC is so important.