Direct sales of weapons and defense-related products to Ukraine permitted from 1 January 2024

The Norwegian government has decided to permit direct sales of weapons and defense-related products from the Norwegian defense industry to the defense authorities in Ukraine. This policy change will enter into force on January 1 2024.

Russia's war of aggression threatens Ukraine as a state and nation. Only a few days after Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, the Norwegian government decided to donate weapons and defense-related products to Ukraine. The government has since followed up with a series of donations in line with Ukraine's needs.

‘In the extraordinary security situation resulting from Russia's war of aggression, it is crucial that we continue to support Ukraine. Support for Ukraine is important for Norwegian and European security. We must plan for the possibility that the illegal war of aggression may be prolonged. The Government has therefore decided to permit direct sales of weapons and defense-related products from Norwegian defense industry to Ukraine,’ says Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide (Ap).

The Norwegian military support to Ukraine is part of a broad international effort among allies and partner countries. In short, Norway's military support has been organised according to four main arrangements:

  • Donations from own stocks
  • Donations procured through international cooperation and fund mechanisms
  • Donations procured directly from the defense industry
  • Training of Ukrainian personnel

Provided that the export meets requirements for verified needs and end-user control, the government has therefore decided to permit direct sales of weapons and defense-related products from the Norwegian defense industry to the defense authorities in Ukraine. 

‘This change means that we are safeguarding fundamental defense and security policy interests for Norway together with our allies. The Government employs a number of instruments to facilitate the important role of the defense industry in the current security policy situation,’ says Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp).

What does the policy change mean?

The policy change means that Norwegian companies can apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an export license for direct sales of weapons and defense-related products to Ukraine. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasises that export licenses for direct sales will only be granted on a case-by-case basis. All applications will be thoroughly assessed. The control will continue to take place within a strict and responsible framework, in line with the Norwegian export control regulations.

Assessments of applications will be made according to the following criteria:

  • Direct sales of weapons and defense-related products can only be made to Ukrainian authorities.
  • Applications must include documentation and government assurances regarding end-use and end-user and must include a re-export (subsequent transfer) clause.
  • Transportation and delivery of weapons and defense-related products must take place through secure and established logistics routes. 
  • Applications are assessed in accordance with Norwegian export control regulations and Norway's obligations under international law, including the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

Companies must apply for an export license in the MFA’s E-licensing system

Norwegian arms export policy remains unchanged

The Government believes it is important that the Ukrainian authorities are given the opportunity to purchase the weapons and defense-related products they need. Direct sales will take place under strict conditions. The new arrangement is in line with Norwegian export control framework

The basis for Norwegian export control policy today is the Storting’s decision of principle in 1959, which stated that ‘the main point of view should be that Norway will not allow the sale of arms and ammunition to areas where there is war or the threat of war, or to countries where there is civil war. In this connection, the parliament emphasised that ‘the export of arms and ammunition from Norway must only take place after a careful assessment of the foreign and domestic political situation in the area in question. This assessment must be decisive for whether exports should take place.

‘The Storting’s decision of 1959 will continue to form the basis for the exports of weapons and defense-related products from Norway. The fact that the government is now permitting direct sales to Ukraine does not mean that we will allow direct sales of weapons to countries at war on a general basis. Norway is benefited from maintaining a strict export control policy. The government’s decision applies to Ukraine and is justified by the extraordinary security policy situation we now find ourselves in, together with our allies,’ says Foreign Minister Barth Eide. 

In 1967, the Storting debated a proposal to ban the export of weapons and military materiel to belligerent NATO countries. The Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Affairs Committee's recommendation stated that ‘in the Committee's opinion, the parliamentary decision in 1959 does not aim to regulate matters related to our own defense and security policy, but only affects commercial arms exports’.

The Storting was consulted before the government made a decision on this matter. The permission direct sales of weapons and defense-related products to Ukraine will also be discussed in the government's upcoming white paper on the Nansen program for Ukraine.

Norway will continue to provide significant military support to Ukraine in line with the Nansen program. In total, Norway has provided around NOK 11 billion in military support in 2023.

Travel advice for Norwegian citizens

There are major challenges in traveling in and out of Ukraine, due to active fighting in several locations in the country and occasional missile and drone attacks against critical infrastructure. 

The MFA's travel advice for Ukraine advises against all travel to Ukraine and urges Norwegian citizens to leave the country.

Civilians who enter Ukraine in connection with a possible delivery of goods, or for services such as training, repairs and the like, may also risk becoming legal targets for military attacks. 

Where travel is nevertheless necessary, it is important that everyone makes their own security assessments before traveling to Ukraine. You must also ensure that you have valid insurance that covers travel to high-risk areas such as Ukraine. Norwegian authorities have very limited opportunities to assist Norwegian citizens in Ukraine.

The translation of this text from Norwegian to English has been done using AI, with subsequent quality assurance by staff in the Norwegian MFA.