Remarks by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the launch of the Stuart Center for Euro-Atlantic and Northern European Studies in Washington 13 May 2016.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
CSIS continues to play an important part in keeping the issue of European security and the importance of transatlantic bonds high up on the American agenda.
And we are very proud that your president is a Norwegian American, which we take great pride in. John, I know that you can trace your ancestors back to Voss and Granvin in western Norway. This is without a doubt the most beautiful part of Norway – and as it happens it is where I am from as well!.
We have some serious challenges ahead of us. We are experiencing a more volatile and fragile security situation. We have seen a major shift in the security situation in Europe. Russia’s violations of international law are cause of great concern.
At the same time, Europe as a political project forged by common interests and shared values, is being put to the test. The current discussion in the EU is not about further enlargement; it is about how to prevent countries from withdrawing their membership.
My key message today is a call for unity, with focus on shared interests and common responsibilities. We need to stand together in an insecure world. In practical terms, this means investing in our common security.
Over the past few years, many European ministers have travelled to Washington D.C. to underline that a US presence in Europe is still needed. Faced with a fundamental shift in the security landscape in Europe over the past two years, US leadership is as important as ever.
We are therefore pleased to see that the US maintains its strong commitment to allied and transatlantic security. The European Reassurance Initiative is one of several clear manifestations of this.
The current security situation in Europe has reminded us that we need to ensure better burden sharing. European allies are stepping up their efforts. Last year, 16 NATO countries increased defence expenditure in real terms. It is important to maintain this momentum towards the NATO summit in Warsaw and beyond.
Norway will do its share. My Government will continue to invest in security. This is the third consecutive year that we have increased the defence budget, and we will continue to do so. Allow me at this point to share three key elements in our defence and security policy:
- the strengthening of NATO,
- collective defence,
- cooperation and shared interest.
Firstly, the strengthening of NATO: we contribute to the Alliance’s reassurance and deterrence measures. And we take a special interest in ensuring the long-term adaptation of NATO to a new security situation with collective defence at its core.
NATO remains the cornerstone of our security policy. Still, we do not expect NATO to do the job for us. Unless we take our own security seriously, we cannot expect that the Alliance will. The Alliance’s strength and credibility rest on the principle of burden sharing and that each and every allied must be capable of defending its own territory and contributing to collective defence.
Collective defence is the second element I would like to highlight. Article 5 is perhaps the best-known article in the Washington Treaty. Still, this article presupposes that an article less referred to is in perfectly good shape. This is Article 3 of the Treaty, which sets out the Allies’ obligation to ‘maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack’.
Norway has implemented measures to improve and increase the preparedness and readiness of our own armed forces. And we will continue to adjust our defence plans in response to a more challenging security situation for the Alliance.
Defence investment is a key element in preparing for these tasks. Norway is already spending heavily on relevant capacities, and we will continue to do so. We are well above NATO’s 20 % target, with strong focus on high-end capability investments such as the F-35 fighter jets.
The third element I want to highlight is cooperation and shared interests. One example is the need to ensure stability in the High North.
Given our geographical position, on NATO’s northern flank and as a neighbour to Russia, we have a special responsibility for ensuring stability in the High North. This is both in our own national interests and in the interests of the Alliance.
We have a long history of cooperating with Russia in the High North, even in times of political differences. Predictability is key.
A predictable military presence in the High North ensures stability. Norway has stepped up its maritime presence in this region with submarines and maritime patrol aircraft. We have also increased our intelligence capability. All this greatly improves both our and NATO’s situational awareness and regional understanding.
However, this is not solely a Norwegian responsibility. It is a matter for the Alliance as a whole. This is an area where NATO and Russian interests meet. As an Alliance, we all have an interest in keeping this area stable and peaceful.
Meanwhile, close bilateral ties with the US will also remain crucial. Our intelligence cooperation in the north is a good example of this. This cooperation is based on trust and a shared recognition of mutual security. It enables us to maintain a good situational awareness in an area of strategic importance.
I would also like to mention the prepositioning of US military equipment in Norway. Earlier this year I met with the US Marine Corps during their participation in our national exercise Cold Response. This meeting confirmed our common desire to expand and further develop this long-standing cooperation.
Our close bilateral ties also ensure access to reinforcements when this is required. Between us is the Atlantic Ocean. We consider the Atlantic to be our lifeline. Europe’s recent history bears strong witness to this. Today we are facing military-strategic changes that could jeopardise this lifeline. We must ensure that sea lines of communication remain open for supplies and reinforcements in times of crisis or war. This is why we have made boosting NATO’s maritime profile a main priority in the run-up to the Warsaw Summit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The need for continued US support to trans-Atlantic solidarity and European security — with NATO at its core — is as important as ever.
Europe must take its fair share of responsibility, as it has done for many years in Afghanistan and in other places where the Allies have operated together.
NATO continues to be vital for promoting US security interests – both politically and militarily. Our enduring commitment to transatlantic security is based on the principles of unity, shared interests and common responsibility. This is essentially what we expect the Warsaw Summit to demonstrate.
Thank you for your attention.