NATO, in need of reform

“Never again.” This was the reaction in Norway and Denmark after World War II, a sentiment that has echoed for generations. We have learned from our history that we as small and open democracies back then and today are dependent on strong Allies to guarantee our freedom. For this reason, our countries were founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and strong defenders of liberal values during the Cold War. Together with Iceland, our two countries are NATO in the Nordic region.

Today the security environment has changed in our region. After the end of the Cold War we cashed in the peace dividend but lately we have seen increasingly more aggressive activities and rhetoric from Russia. Therefore, we see the re-emergence of security politics in the public debate. In 2014 it became clear that Russia desires a larger and stronger global footprint. This escalation became evident with Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine. The recent cyber activities underline this further. This assessment is also reflected in the threat assessments published by our respective intelligence services.

Furthermore, the reality is that the U.S. is engaged in many other parts of the world in order to ensure our common security. For this reason it makes perfect sense that Norway and Denmark increases the contribution to the collective security in our own region.

Denmark and Norway share common values and common history and as NATO Allies we share many interests. We aim to ensure democracy, freedom, a safe and secure Nordic region, a strong NATO and not least a strong transatlantic bond. However, the Alliance needs to adapt and modernise and Denmark and Norway will remain in the forefront to maintain the relevance of the Alliance.     

NATO is the cornerstone of Danish and Norwegian security. We take pride in contributing to the Alliance. Norway and Denmark contributes to the security of our allies by strengthening the collective defence capability. Norwegian and Danish forces contribute in NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania and Estonia. We have participated in all NATO operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In 2014, we contributed to the transportation of declared chemical weapons out of Syria. At present, we are participating in the international coalition to defeat ISIL with trainers, radar capacity and special operation forces. Through our rotational transport aircraft arrangement to MINUSMA, we are ensuring a long term, flexible and critical resource to the UN. The fact that we as NATO members always stand ready to contribute to the Alliance and our Allies to ensure international peace and stability is something that we Danes and Norwegians take pride in.

Fair sharing of the responsibility for our common security is both an important prerequisite for NATO’s cohesion and military capability. Norway and Denmark support the ambition from the Wales summit that members of NATO must increase our defence expenditures and invest in critical capabilities.

The world has become more insecure. We face challenges in our immediate neighbourhood. The digital domain is increasingly challenged by threats from both state and non-state actors which make us vulnerable. This means that we must take the appropriate measures to increase our collective security. For this reason, an increase in our defence expenditures is necessary – for the collective security of NATO and for NATO’s credibility as a military alliance. We share our values of democracy and freedom with our allies in NATO. These values do not come for free. We must be ready to defend them if necessary and in this sense NATO’s deterrence is essential. The greater the insecurity, the more important our commitment to NATO is. History has taught us that democracies must act and negotiate from a position of strength.

This does not mean that we should militarize our societies. But we must ensure that NATO continues to have the necessary political and military means to deter those who would seek to challenge our values as free and peaceful democracies. If we do not possess the will to invest in defence and collective security we risk exposing our societies. Our will to invest in defence is simply a prerequisite to enable us to reassume a balanced dialogue with Russia. Norway and Denmark takes our responsibility seriously and we are making the necessary investments in our defence. We are investing in advanced weapon systems which are necessary to maintain our collective defence obligations. We are also strengthening our efforts in the vital cyber domain both in regard to hacking and “fake news” and while strengthening this effort we are becoming more resilient societies.

We will work to increase our defence expenditures. In line with the Norwegian long term defence plan the Norwegian defence budget will increase significantly in the years to come. Similarly the Danish government stated its will to ensure a substantial increase of the defence budget in the new five-year defence agreement.

At the same time, we see a need for NATO to adapt  to better counter the challenges we face. We will work together to adapt NATO’s command structure, strengthen NATO’s collective defence in the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea and to ensure stability in the North. We must also safeguard that NATO is capable of solving its tasks in the Baltic Sea area and at Europe’s Southern border.

Denmark and Norway value  the relationship to our Allies very highly. The very foundation of our common security in Europe and NATO is the strong transatlantic bond, a bond that since the foundation of NATO repeatedly has shown its political and military strength. Denmark and Norway, as responsible NATO members, will continue to work closely to develop and strengthen this bond and NATO as a military alliance.

We also welcome the strengthened cooperation between NATO and the EU. The two organizations share common values and goals.

When it comes to the Nordic region the Nordic countries have different traditions. Together with Iceland, we are a part of NATO while Sweden and Finland are enhanced partners. However, the Nordic countries have a common interest in our security and for this reason, we have created the Nordic Defence Cooperation, NORDEFCO. In this format we work to expand the boundaries of our military cooperation and hereby strengthen security in our region. The Nordic countries assume responsibility for the security of our region in a way, which contributes to cooperation, and stability in Northern-Europe, which also benefits our Allies. For this reason, Denmark and Norway also strongly support the close relationship between Sweden and Finland and NATO.

The security of Norway and Denmark is indivisibly linked with the security of our Allies. Because of this, we will continue to contribute to our common security in NATO, in coalition operations and in the UN. In addition, we will continue to carry our share of the burden when guarding our democratic values and the peaceful co-existence that is the basis for these values.