Prime Minister's speech at the Leangkollen Security Conference
Speech/statement | Date: 06/02/2023 | Office of the Prime Minister
By Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Leangkongen, Asker)
Ladies and gentlemen, friends. We are approaching the tragic one-year milestone of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. One year of war in Europe, thousands of thousands of lives lost. One year of destruction on a scale not seen since World War II.
One year of brutality and war crimes, of millions fleeing their homes. One year of families being torn apart – by bombs hitting apartment buildings in Kyiv, in the trenches at Bakhmut, and on the battlefields in the East.
And, while the Ukrainians are contending with the horrors of war, the war also has an impact on our daily lives. It has changed Europe and reminded us of what is at stake. We are at a turning point in European history.
Previously, we talked about a world order under pressure. Now we have a world order under attack. For Norway, this has profound implications. International law is our first line of defence. Our security, prosperity and freedom all rest on a rules-based order. Where might does not mean right. Where sovereign states – be they large or small – can choose their way forward.
Russia has created a deep divide between those who support Ukraine’s self-defence and the current regime in Moscow. But – the result has been greater unity. Unity amongst allies. And unity amongst democracies that understand what is at stake. A fight for Ukraine´s freedom and territorial integrity – but by extension –, a fight for our security, and our principles and values.
The war has not turned out the way Russia expected. Russia has failed to reach its objectives. The Ukrainians’ self-defence is impressive. Their courage and morale inspiring.
And the past year has revealed major weaknesses in the Russian defence. We need to learn from all lessons possible from that. Corruption and distrust within the armed forces. Inadequate training, incompetence and low morale. Flaws in leadership, intelligence, and interoperability.
Make no mistake, we should not underestimate Russia's military capacity. Thousands more can be mobilised. All these young men, older men as well, are being thrown into conflict. The number of causalities is staggering. Russia has large stockpiles of military equipment and the capacity to produce more. We expect new Russian offensives. They may be imminent. In the coming days and weeks.
The aim is to wear out the Ukrainian people and divide those who support them. Russia shows no sign of letting up. The Russian President seems intent on a protracted war and believes that he has time on his side.
The challenge goes to democracy. We cannot let Russia once again experience the lessons from Georgia in 2008 and Donbas and Crimea in 2014. We must learn from our mistakes.
So let me be clear: We must continue to support Ukraine. We have imposed historic sanctions on the Russian regime, that over time will weaken the Russian ability to sustain the war effort. We have received large numbers of Ukrainian refugees. I commend all the Norwegian municipalities, from the small to the biggest, that have received the largest number of refugees since the World War II. It has happened in a pretty harmonious way. You should take som inspiration from that.
And, last year Norway provided over NOK 10 billion in civilian and military support. When I talk to president Zelenskyi, he always stresses the following: their most pressing need is military support. In response, we announced last week that we – together with allies – will donate Leopard tanks. The latest addition to a steady flow of increasingly advanced weapons that we have provided. Training is under way, and we will coordinate that delivery with our allies. I think that it is critical important that we improve coordination. The worst thing in a war-zone is that you get bottlenecks which are not well managed. And I will commend allies for making great progress in that coordination. And we should really put an effort into that.
Ukraine’s needs are immense. Therefore, we will shortly, only in an hour, announce to parties in parliament, a significant, multi-year support package. We will finance humanitarian assistance to the millions of people forced to flee.
We will support rebuilding of infrastructure, help maintain continuity in the economy, and provide assistance to local authorities. This is the ballot and major effort of helping Ukraine repairing their systems. As they are being deliberately taken out, especially in energy. And our pledge will have a substantial military component. In the average of 50-50, at least this year.
Committing to a multi-year package enables us to give predictability to the Ukrainian government and its donors and partners. And not least send the message to the Ukrainian people, that we are ready to stand by them, for as long as it takes.
We are all feeling the effects of this war. If the world produce 10 pieces of bread. Three of them would come from the Ukrainian and Russian region. Just signalling what a challenge this is to people far beyond Europe.
Eenergy supply is under pressure; inflation is soaring. Food insecurity has increased globally. And if Russia succeeds in its destructive aims, this will have a dramatic impact on our security. The war therefore has some larger strategic implications. And we should start reflecting on them. Not only on a day to day basis, but try to see the underlines – where are we heading with this. There is analytical work ahead, dear friends. And I commend this conference for setting this agenda.
Let me turn to some of the challenges as I see them:
First, a new dividing line is descending on Europe. A new iron curtain between East and West. The implications for Europe are hard to overestimate. A Russia in self-imposed isolation is bad news for all of us. So is a Russia that plummets into chaos and instability. Not least for Russians themselves.
Russia's warfare creates a deep uncertainty about its intentions and its future relations with its many neighbours. I reminds me of one lesson I was growing from my seven years as foreign minister, dealing a lot with Russia, discussing with other neighbouring countries. I came to the conclusion that Russia does not really have one neighbourhood policy. It has policy with neighbours. Depending on what neighbour it is. And when I meet my dear colleague from Estonia, who is a neighbour to Russia, she has a different story and experience, than I have as a Norwegian Prime Minister. The strength of Nato is that we are pooling these experiences. And backing each other with these different stories, that we can tell. Norway is for it’s part the only neighbour of Russia that has never been at war with Russia. The normal opening when we talk about relations, is that we have lived in peace for a thousand years. And we have to draw lessons from that.
We do not choose our geography. We have to deal with Russia, now and in the future. We must ensure that we can have contact and practical cooperation on border matters, sea rescue and fisheries management. And, we must maintain lines of communication to avoid misunderstandings and unintended incidents in the High North. But our relationship with Russia cannot return to normal until Russia takes responsibility for its actions.
Our aim is still to maintain stability and predictability in the High North. This is in the interest of both Norway and our allies. But no area is unaffected by the current security situation. Regular Russian military activity now takes place against an unusually serious backdrop. Uncertainty has increased. We must be prepared that the security situation close to us may deteriorate.
Russia continues to use covert means, digital attacks and extensive intelligence activities; also against Norway. Be that against universities, hospitals, municipalities, and even parliament. We are following the situation closely. Norway is NATO's eyes and ears in the north.
We have strengthened Norwegian preparedness. We are increasing military presence and coordinating our activities with allies. We do this, I believe, in a sensible way. We still maintain the vision of high north, low tension. This is the best way to ensure that we leave behind a firm, yet predictable footprint.
And let me be clear: Norway poses no threat to anyone. The Nordics poses no threat to anyone. And the same goes for NATO. We are there for securing our lives and security.
Second, the past year has reminded us of the value of partnerships and alliances. Finland’s and Sweden's applications for NATO membership are the clearest expression of this.
They have sought the security of the Alliance, to avoid being left alone in the proximity of an unpredictable Russia. It strikes me as important that the president of Finland sends a signal in this direction before the invasion. And he did that after president Putin laid out his vision for what kind of Europe he wanted to see. That was really what started that last phase. That led to Finland’s application. Important I think.
Finland’s and Sweden’s decisions to join NATO are historic. It fundamentally changes Nordic cooperation. NATO will be stronger by accepting Finland and Sweden as members. They fulfil all the criteria of new member countries. And they bring important new contributions to Allied security. By way of example: Norway, Sweden and Finland combined will have more than 200 modern fighter jets. When operated seamlessly under Allied command, that is a force to be reckoned with.
The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO will change the strategic outlook in our part of the world. Stability will be improved. Links between the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic will be reinforced. The Baltic will come into our strategic focus, which traditionally has been oriented west and north towards the North Atlantic and the Barents Sea.
Let me underline that this has not happened from scratch. In the last 15-20 years we have deepened cooperation. On defence. On security. And in the late 80’s we could not even discuss security matters in the Nordic family. We have come far. So we start on a very good basis. And all the prime ministers have instructed all the ministers of defence, to go through the whole area and spectre of potential cooperation. And I take note of the reports that this work is progressing.
This is positive for Norwegian security. And we are not starting from scratch. And we will take it forward.
Norway has offered to assist Sweden and Finland on their path way to membership in any way we can. Regarding the current impasse in ratifications, let me say this: NATO is there to enhance the common security of all its members. That also extends to the many members of the Alliance who stand to benefit greatly from Finland and Sweden joining. We agreed in Madrid that we would welcome Sweden and Finland. We laid out the criteria. They fulfil, and more than to be expected. And we expect without further delay that remaining Allies will ratify the accession protocols.
Thirdly, I would like to address Russia's manipulation of the European energy market. It has been a deliberate Russian strategy, set in motion well before the actual outbreak of war. Gas prices started to rise in the summer of 2021. Stockpiles in Europa was half full or half empty. And who owns those stockpiles? That moment it was Gazprom owning them.
The aim has been to hit European industry and households – in order to weaken solidarity with Ukraine. And divide democracies.
Norway’s response has been to facilitate increased production by the companies on the Norwegian continental shelf. This has added approximately 100 TWh of supply in 2022 to Europe, on top of approximately 1200 TWh already supplied. We have helped our European partners to fill their reserves ahead of the winter. Norway will continue to be a reliable partner, now as Europe’s largest supplier of gas. Let me also mention, because there is a debate in Europe about oil and gas production in the arctic. Half of that extra delivery of gas comes from Snøhvit, Melkøya in Hammerfest. Which is deliberately in the arctic. So if you want to limit import from the arctic, well that’s a bad choice. Don’t do it.
We support measures to stabilise energy markets. We are paying a price ourselves by high electricity prices, especially in the south. We are also playing an active role, alongside European partners, in the long-term solution to Europe’s energy shortfall – a massive scale-up in renewables such as ocean wind. Europe’s green transition is being turbo-charged, gradually but effectively disabling energy as a weapon. This will happen fast, and it’s as paradox that the war is actually pushing this development strongly. And we acknowledge that, as a country that now has large revenues from oil and gas, we have a special responsibility to contribute.
These developments bring Norway strategically even closer to our European partners. They affect our security and broaden our responsibility. We know that a deliberate attack or sabotage against the pipelines to Europe would have severe ramifications. Norway has about three big land installations. Nineteen installations on the shore, and 9000 km pipelines to Europe. The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines was a stark reminder.
Therefore, together with allies, we have increased presence and preparedness around offshore installations and other critical energy infrastructure in Norway. Together with Germany, we have initiated the establishment of a new NATO centre to improve the protection of critical subsea infrastructure.
My fourth and final observation is that we must also manage to look beyond Ukraine. As we are dealing with the war and its consequences on our own continent, we must not turn ourselves to turn inwards.
We must acknowledge the effects of this war beyond Europe’s borders, and understand how the war is perceived. Beyond Europe.
There is a genuine reluctance to pick sides. Western countries come with a mixed bag of history. Russia and other large countries are actively blaming the West for the war and its negative global ramifications. We need to counter that narrative. Not by lecturing, but by engaging with and sharing our perspective. And by taking concrete action to reduce soaring inflation, and decrease food and energy insecurity. All of which can translate into security risks – and lead to instability, conflict and migration pressures. Reaching all the way to Europe.
And that is why our proposed contribution to Ukraine, as I was referring to and will share with Parliament later today. This will be accompanied by an allocation to countries in the Global South severely affected by the indirect consequences of the war. This will mean increased Norwegian support for humanitarian efforts and the fight against hunger in countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Let me close with two points that give grounds for cautious optimism.
First, support for Ukraine is not waning. Despite the costs of support and the ramifications of the war, public opinion in the West remains steadfast in advocating military and financial aid. Sovereignty and freedom are abstract concepts – until someone tries to take them away. The democracies of the world are no longer able to slumber complacently. We are wide awake taking decisive action. In support of Ukraine and in defence of our values.
Second, to those who say time is on Russia’s side: Putin’s Russia looks to an imagined past and is rewriting history to justify an unlawful war. We view things differently.
We look towards the future. Towards a Europe where democratic states can live in peaceful co-existence. And we can again draw a European security order based on rules that give safety and freedom for small and big alike.
Debate on the future after World War II started far earlier than the end of that war, in 1941-1942. Before anyone had a precise outlook on how that would end. We need to take that discussion now.
Towards a world where we settle our differences through political means, not by brutal, 20th century style warfare. And even 19th century. And 18th century. I have no doubt that our vision is the most attractive. Time is on our side. We will prevail.