Speech/statement | Date: 03/03/2022 | Office of the Prime Minister
Mr President, the war in Ukraine has sent shockwaves across the world and shaken us all.
The brutal invasion of a large, peaceful neighbouring country is something we have not seen in Europe since the Second World War.
The battle being fought by the Ukrainian people for their lives and their freedom is hitting us all close to home.
Fathers sending their families to safety across the border into Poland not knowing if they will see their children again.
Frightened people seeking refuge together in cellars and improvised bomb shelters.
Sixteen children killed, and 60 injured in the past few days alone, as Ukraine’s courageous President Zelensky told me when I spoke to him yesterday.
The Ukrainian people are fighting heroically to defend their country.
But they are also fighting to defend our ideals, our values.
They are fighting for peace, for democracy, and for a Europe where conflicts are resolved by peaceful means, not with military force.
They are fighting for an international community where relations between states are based on rules, not coercion.
The hostilities in Ukraine have now lasted a week.
Russia has grossly underestimated the Ukrainian people and the strength and determination of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
And President Putin has underestimated the international response and unity in NATO and Europe.
Indeed, he has underestimated the power of democracy.
There can be no doubt about that.
But I fear that things will get worse before they get better.
Russian and Belarusian forces are advancing into Ukrainian cities.
There is increasing use of heavy artillery and cluster munitions.
There is fighting in – not just outside – even more of the major cities.
We must be prepared for a sharp rise in the death toll in the days and weeks ahead.
More and more people will flee westwards from Ukraine.
They will encounter a Europe – a Norway – ready to help people who have been forced to leave their homes behind.
Russia and the regime in Belarus bear full responsibility for this war and its consequences.
Norway condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the strongest possible terms.
And we are not alone.
Yesterday, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A full 141 countries voted for the resolution. Only 5 voted against.
This attack is a serious violation of international law, and one that has been long in the planning.
As far back as spring last year, Russia started building up its forces along the Ukrainian border. In all likelihood, this was part of the preparations for the invasion we are now seeing.
We have been following Russia’s military build-up closely.
Our intelligence cooperation with the US has been particularly valuable.
They – and we – have attached great importance to declassifying intelligence information to make the general public aware of the growing threat to Ukraine.
While Russia was increasing its military threat to Ukraine, it also presented a long list of political demands to NATO and the US.
Most of the demands were impossible to meet.
At the same time, it was important, and the right thing to do, to try to resolve the situation through diplomatic channels.
Norway was in close contact with the US, Germany, France and NATO, which were leading these efforts.
But none of us was willing to compromise on one fundamental principle: that all sovereign states must be able to determine their own geopolitical alignment.
This applies to Ukraine, to our Allies in the Baltic region – and to our neighbouring countries, Sweden and Finland.
Emerging conflicts must be resolved through political negotiations. No other continent has as many effective mechanisms for resolving conflicts peacefully as Europe. And all of these mechanisms are available to Russia.
Coordination within NATO and between NATO and the EU has been excellent.
We are more united than ever before.
This was made crystal clear at the NATO summit I participated in last Friday. All the NATO heads of state and government convened at short notice the day after Russia attacked Ukraine. Sweden, Finland and the EU also took part.
I have been to many NATO meetings in the course of my political career, but I have never witnessed such a strong sense of unity as I did last Friday.
The EU, too, has played a crucial role, particularly when it comes to imposing sanctions on Russia and providing assistance to Ukraine.
The EU’s decision-making bodies have worked rapidly and have coordinated their efforts. The EU’s normative, economic and legislative influence has never been stronger.
Norway has been in close contact with the EU and like-minded EU countries, and the Government has attached great importance to coordinating the response with our Nordic neighbours and European allies.
The unusual military build-up along Ukraine’s borders in the autumn quickly had consequences for Norway as well.
As far back as December, we decided to introduce measures to enhance preparedness at the national level.
Surveillance and situational awareness monitoring in our neighbouring areas was stepped up. We reviewed all relevant plans and made preparations relating to key points in the plans and the security of our own forces in Norway.
In January, measures were implemented to strengthen our ability to withstand cyber attacks.
In February, preparedness was further strengthened, both in NATO and here in Norway.
NATO activated the NATO Response Force, increased intelligence activities and surveillance, and made preparations for rapid troop deployment to other Alliance partners.
NATO has also activated its defence plans.
This is an important step that will facilitate coordination of Allied activities.
All these measures combined constitute a credible and strong military deterrence vis-à-vis Russia.
I know that many people in Norway, including many children, are scared that there will now be war in Norway.
As adults, we must make it quite clear: Norway is not at war.
The fact that Norway is now sending weapons to Ukraine does not mean that we are taking part in the war against Russia.
The additional Norwegian soldiers we are sending to the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania will not be sent on to Ukraine. They are there to safeguard the security of the NATO member states.
We have received no information that suggests that Russia is now planning or sees it as in its interests to seek a military conflict with Norway or other NATO countries.
And Mr President, let us not forget that NATO is a defence alliance. Its purpose is to defend its member countries based on the principle of ‘one for all and all for one’.
However, the war in Ukraine makes it necessary for all NATO countries to be more vigilant.
This also applies to the north.
The Russian President has placed Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert – an unacceptable escalation of the conflict.
The Kola Peninsula, close to Russia’s border with Norway in Finnmark, is home to many of Russia’s nuclear weapons. Russia’s move to increase protection of its nuclear weapons is leading to increased military tension and activity in the north.
Let me repeat: there is nothing to indicate that it is in Russia’s interests to bring the conflict to Norwegian territory.
But we are monitoring this activity closely. On our own behalf and on behalf of our allies.
The situation calls for heightened military preparedness in Norway as well.
That is why the Government has been implementing a series of measures since December that enhance our ability to monitor the situation and increase our readiness in the event that the conflict escalates.
In the second half of March, Norway will be hosting the military exercise Cold Response.
The exercise will take place in a number of parts of Norway, primarily in the area between Bodø and Tromsø.
More than 30 000 soldiers from some 25 countries will be taking part.
The exercise has been planned for a long time and is not part of our response to the war in Ukraine. As usual, we have briefed Russia fully about the exercise through established diplomatic and military channels.
Nevertheless, in the current situation, the exercise has gained significance for Norway and NATO. It will be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Allied unity and strength.
We know that Cold Response will be followed closely by Russia.
The Norwegian Armed Forces and NATO are fully aware of the serious backdrop to the exercise.
The Norwegian Armed Forces and the participating forces are therefore coordinating activities closely to ensure that the exercise is implemented in an effective and responsible manner.
The number of Norwegian citizens and residents registered as being present in Ukraine is decreasing, but dozens still remain in the country.
Under the present circumstances, it is not possible to offer assistance with evacuation from Ukraine.
The Norwegian Embassy in Kyiv has been moved temporarily to Warsaw. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in close dialogue with the other Nordic countries and the EU to coordinate efforts to provide assistance to our respective citizens.
The embassies in the countries that border Ukraine are ready to assist Norwegian citizens who cross into these countries.
The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is deteriorating with each day the war continues.
This is affecting people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and those who are still in Ukraine.
According to UN estimates, one million people have now fled Ukraine.
We may be facing the worst humanitarian disaster in Europe since the Second World War.
And Norwegians want to help.
Norway’s municipalities have reported that they both have the capacity and are willing to receive refugees.
The Norwegian Red Cross has reported that individuals and business across the country want to do their part.
And I know that these responses reflect a strong, broad-based humanitarian engagement on the part of the Norwegian people – and the people in this chamber.
The Government has decided to provide a total of NOK 2 billion for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and to help those who have fled the country.
In this initial acute phase, the funding provided by Norway will be channelled through UN organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Norwegian humanitarian organisations.
We are providing funding for life-saving assistance, food and shelter for people who have been forced to flee their homes.
We are providing medical equipment to Ukraine and stand ready to provide more.
As part of the Schengen cooperation, we are monitoring the flow of refugees from Ukraine in close consultation with the EU. The position of the Norwegian Government since the start of the war has been clear:
We stand ready to assist Ukraine and neighbouring countries that are now receiving refugees.
We will do our part to help those in need of assistance and protection.
We stand ready to take in our share of refugees from Ukraine, within the framework of the European cooperation.
Yesterday, the European Commission proposed a scheme to grant collective temporary protection to Ukrainian refugees. Norway established a national collective protection scheme in connection with the Balkan war in the 1990s.
There are good reasons to employ this scheme in connection with the Ukraine crisis too. We will wait to take a final decision until we know more about details of the EU scheme.
The Minister of Justice and Public Security has already started the preparations for an increase in refugees arriving in Norway. The Directorate of Immigration and the police have refined their plans in this area on the basis of lessons learned from the refugee crisis in 2015.
That said, I ask the Storting to be prepared for the fact that there will be significant challenges associated with the arrival in Norway, over a short space of time, of a large number of refugees from Ukraine or its neighbouring countries. But we can do this if we all pull together.
Norway has long had a policy of not exporting defence-related products to countries affected by war and conflict. This has been a fundamental principle of Norway’s export control system since the Storting’s statement and decision of 1959, which made it clear that Norway would not permit the sale of arms or munitions to areas where there is a war or the threat of war, or to countries where there is a civil war.
This policy has served us well.
In 1967, the Storting discussed the scope of the 1959 decision following a debate on the issue of arms exports and relations with allied countries. The Storting adopted a unanimous decision limiting the scope of the 1959 decision and establishing that the intention of the earlier decision was not to regulate factors relating to Norway’s security and defence interests, and only applied to commercial export.
There is no question that there is war in Ukraine. This raises many dilemmas. At the same time, we are experiencing an extraordinary security policy situation in which NATO and the EU member states are pursuing a unified response.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces are in dire need of military equipment.
That is why the Government has sent military equipment such as helmets and bulletproof vests to Ukraine. We are also preparing to send M72 anti-tank weapons. These are weapons that are easy to deploy and can be used to defend against attacking armoured vehicles.
Before taking this decision, we were in close contact with our Nordic neighbours. I would also like to thank the parties in the Storting for convening – twice – to discuss what we realise is a complex matter that raises many difficult problems.
Nevertheless, I would like to emphasise that this is not a matter of commercial export to an area affected by war. These weapons are being provided as a donation from one state to another in an extraordinary security policy situation, in line with the export control framework that has existed since the 1960s. We have neither amended nor disregarded Norwegian legislation.
In the past week, the EU has adopted a wide-ranging package of sanctions targeting the financial sector, the energy sector, the transport sector and selected individuals.
Similar measures have been implemented by the US. The UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and others have also imposed sanctions.
Norway has worked actively to promote a united response by like-minded countries.
This does not prevent us from implementing our own measures.
The Government has decided to freeze the investments of the Government Pension Fund Global (Norway’s sovereign wealth fund) in Russia, and to divest the fund’s Russian assets.
But what will have the greatest impact is a broad international response.
We are already seeing the effects of the sanctions on the Russian economy.
Our country, too, will feel the economic effects of the sanctions that have been imposed.
Companies that do business with Russia will be affected. This will be particularly the case in eastern Finnmark.
Higher prices for food, electricity and fuel may affect the economy of Norwegian households and lead to higher inflation.
So far, however, there is reason to believe that the direct impacts on the Norwegian economy will be limited.
Reductions in gas deliveries from Russia in recent months have led to record-high gas prices. This is also the main reason for the high electricity prices we are seeing today in the southern part of Norway.
The ramifications if Russia were to halt all gas exports via pipeline to Europe would be huge. Gas prices would skyrocket. It will be possible to use other means of supply to cover a temporary shortfall due to disruption of gas deliveries via Ukraine, but Europe will find itself in a vulnerable situation.
Moving forward, Norway will seek to navigate a steady course in a landscape where politics and energy are becoming more and more closely intertwined.
In my discussions with the leaders of the EU and a number of EU countries, I have given assurances that Norway will continue to be a stable and reliable supplier of energy.
In the time ahead, it will be vital for the EU to speed up the development of renewable energy sources that can replace Russian oil and gas. Norway will play an active and major role in areas where we have particular experience and expertise. For example, carbon capture and storage, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier, and renewable energy production based on offshore wind power.
The war in Ukraine is a watershed moment. Russia has launched a frontal attack on international law and the international legal order that has promoted democracy, prosperity and peace in Europe since the Second World War.
Regardless of how the situation unfolds, this war marks a turning point – when we look back on it, there will be a before and an after.
We know that Putin’s regime in Russia is willing to use brutal military force to achieve its objectives – and we have to expect this in the future as well.
This is what makes this war a defining crisis for our continent.
What we are now seeing is a Europe that is cooperating more closely on security and defence policy.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen is probably right in saying that more has changed in the EU’s security and defence cooperation over the past week than in the past 20 years.
There is reason to believe that this momentum will last. Russia’s invasion has united Europe.
The shift in German policy is the clearest example.
A few days ago, Germany announced a significant increase in its defence budget for this year.
Germany is now seeking to take primary responsibility for its own security – and to play a much greater role in safeguarding European security – in the years ahead.
This is good for NATO, for Europe and for Norway.
More countries are likely to follow suit, and we will see substantial investments in strengthening NATO’s collective defence.
As far as Norway is concerned, these recent developments have highlighted the importance of NATO membership for our security.
The security challenges we are facing can only be addressed through cooperation with others. Our membership of NATO provides security in an uncertain and potentially dangerous time.
As do our active participation in European cooperation and our close contact with the US and the UK.
I would also like to emphasise that the current crisis should lead to stronger and more binding security and defence policy cooperation between the Nordic countries.
We share a common set of values and a geographical proximity to Russia. From what I have seen, there is a strong willingness in all the Nordic capitals to expand our cooperation.
At the same time, we must ensure that we have a strong, modern national defence. In a new era of security policy, this will demand more of us as a country.
We must strengthen the Norwegian Armed Forces.
We are NATO’s eyes and ears in the north.
Two days ago, I was present when Norway’s first new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft landed at Evenes Air Base. We are waiting for four more. These aircraft will be crucial to our preparedness. They will gather information about military activity in our neighbouring areas.
Better intelligence and an increased presence, especially in the north, will be vital.
For this reason, I have asked the Minister of Defence to initiate work on a report on these issues so that the Government can present its assessments and recommended measures already during the spring session. Among other things, we will look at immediate measures to enhance the Armed Forces’ response capabilities and Norway’s ability to receive Allied reinforcements.
In the longer term, the defence committee appointed to start the groundwork for a new Long-term Defence Plan from 2025 will also submit recommendations to address the long-term consequences of the change in the security policy landscape.
The increased tensions between Russia and the West are also heightening the risk of activity that poses other threats to societal security.
The acquisition of strategic enterprises, infiltration of research groups in order to gain access to sensitive information and technology, the mapping of critical infrastructure and various forms of propaganda activity are among the activities we are already seeing.
In particular, we have seen a huge increase in cyber attacks against Norwegian targets. The impacts of this complex threat landscape are wide-ranging and are being felt across our society – including in the oil and gas, maritime, media, and food production sectors, in the public administration, in major IT companies – and yes, even in the Storting.
These threats have not emerged due to the current situation. This is an ongoing and worrying trend. We have therefore asked the newly-appointed emergency preparedness committee (totalberedskapskommisjon) to assess fundamental challenges relating to cyber threats and energy security.
Because Russia is one of the main actors behind these threats, we must be prepared for the fact that we will face greater security challenges in these areas as well.
This will demand more of us as a society, but also action and vigilance from Norwegian enterprises and from us as individuals.
Security issues will always be a major component of high politics, but they are now becoming part of our everyday life too. We must acknowledge this fact.
The attack on Ukraine will also affect our bilateral relations with Russia.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed Norway’s relationship with Russia. As long as President Putin remains in power, there is no doubt: relations between our two countries will not be the same again.
The Government is reducing its political contact with the Russian authorities. This is in line with the actions of other European countries and our allies.
Cooperation in areas of critical importance will be maintained. We will not cut off cooperation and channels that directly affect our safety and security, and we will work to ensure sustainable management of, among other things, fish stocks in our neighbouring areas.
However, cooperation with Russia in a wide range of other areas will be discontinued, put on hold or scaled down until further notice.
At the same time, Norway and Russia remain neighbours.
It is worth remembering that even during the coldest periods of the Cold War, we maintained our practical cooperation with the Soviet Union.
As a neighbouring country, we must always work to keep tensions as low as possible and to ensure the highest possible level of security in areas that are close by.
And the West must continue to seek diplomatic, peaceful solutions to the war in Ukraine. Cutting off all contact would make this more difficult, both now and in the time to come.
I would also like to emphasise that the action we have taken and our words of condemnation are directed towards the Russian regime, not the Russian people.
Many Norwegians have close ties to Russia. Many Russians live in Norway. It is important that the people-to-people contact between our two countries continues.
Save the Children Norway has received several reports that children and young people of Russian descent or who have Russian parents have experienced harassment as a result of the war in Ukraine. This is unacceptable.
It is important that all adults – whether they are teachers, sports coaches, parents or grandparents – think responsibly about how they talk about what is happening in Ukraine.
No child is to blame for this war.
No young people should be criticised on social media for what is going on in Ukraine.
These are dramatic and epochal days – and social media is bringing war closer to us than ever before.
Many people are anxious or scared, here in Norway too.
The war in Ukraine is a watershed moment and the decisions we take now may have enormous consequences.
The Government is fully aware of its responsibility, but in a situation such as this, the Storting has a crucial role to play as well.
One of the great strengths of our country is that we can come together in this chamber and overcome party political divisions to find solutions that enjoy broad support.
The Norwegian people expect this of us.
The Government will therefore continue to ensure that the Storting is fully briefed and involved.