Speech by Ine Eriksen Søreide: «One for all, all for one»

Keynote speech by Minister of Defence, Ine Eriksen Søreide at Institute for Defence Studies, Tuesday March 17 2015 at Conference on Northern European Security in light of the Ukraine conflict. Title: “One for all, all for one”

You can read more about the seminar at The Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies' website.

 

*Check against delivery*

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends.

It is a great pleasure to be back at the Institute for Defence Studies (IFS) and to open a conference on such an important topic. Last time I spoke here we were accompanied by a seagull that had made it through the glass-roof. It almost created an atmosphere similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece. I greatly value arenas like this. Open and frank discussions between policy makers and researchers are vital. Politicians depend on proper analyses: we need new perspectives, we need critical questions and we need to be challenged.

The need for new ideas and perspectives were part of the reasoning when the Ministry decided to fund the ongoing research programme on Security and Defence in Northern Europe. In today’s security situation this programme is even more relevant.

Research and researchers play an important role in society – that of informing and encouraging a broad debate on issues that concern us all. I am a long-time advocate of openness, and the necessity of including the whole population in discussions on security policy. We need public awareness; we need to exchange views, and we need to engage our citizens. Security policy is not – and should not be – reserved for “nerds” like us, gathered here.

My main message this morning is the need for increased emphasis on our long-term commitment to collective defence. “One for all, all for one” has rarely been a more appropriate slogan. But slogans are not worth much if they are not substantiated with political will.

Let me highlight two things in particular. First, what I would refer to as a revitalization of collective defence, and second, the fulfilment of this task through increased military preparedness. Simply put: our security community depends on political cohesion and a responsive military force.  

 

Revitalizing collective defence – a long-term commitment

One year ago today, we learned the results of the so-called referendum in Crimea, which was held at gunpoint by armed forces without insignia. Already the next day, the Russian president announced that Crimea had become part of Russia, a clear breach of international law.

Our fundamental vision of a Europe “whole and free” was once again challenged. The combat in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has led to massive sufferings, death and destruction. Tensions between Russia and Western countries are higher than they have been in many years.

Norway condemns the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s continued support to separatists in Eastern Ukraine. As a consequence, we have suspended bilateral military cooperation with Russia at least until the end of 2015. However, we will continue our day-to-day practical collaboration in coast- and border guard activities and search and rescue operations. We will continue our cooperation regarding the Incidents at Sea Agreement. We also keep a direct open line between our national Joint Headquarters and the Northern Fleet to avoid misunderstandings or miscalculations. All of this because it is important for people’s safety in the High North.

2014 was also the year that we witnessed ISIL’s rapid advance in Syria and Iraq. This extremist group has shocked the world with its brutality and violation of basic human rights. It undermines the stability of large parts of the Middle East. ISIL represents a severe terrorist threat to all Western democracies.

2014 will be remembered as the year when new security challenges arose closer to home. The one year mark of the annexation of Crimea is an opportunity to reflect. How did NATO and Norway respond?

Importantly, we chose not to look the other way. We chose to stand up for our values, reassure our allies, and confirm our commitment to the Washington Treaty of 1949.

The events in Ukraine have demonstrated the strong bonds between NATO members and the need for American leadership. Almost as important as what we have done, is the fact that we have done it together. After a long period where NATO has been dealing primarily with threats and crises emanating from places far away from our territory, we now see a renewed emphasis on the need for collective defence. But the old threats have not disappeared. They have merged with the new threats. So in sum, we are left with a far more complex and less predictable security situation.

This requires us to make sure we are prepared, politically and militarily. In that respect, we made many important decisions at the Wales summit. Years from now, we might refer to a NATO “before and after Wales”.

The revitalization of collective defence is especially important for Northern European security.  Norway has long argued the importance of this core task. We were active and successful prior to the Summit, having developed a policy paper together with Poland and the United Kingdom. But you can trace this policy even further back.

I would say that the renewed emphasis on collective defence reflects a course in Norwegian security policy that goes across party lines. It has dominated our security policy for decades.

The previous government, backed by all parties, put forward the so-called “Raising NATO’s Profile Initiative” in 2008. In order to keep NATO credible and relevant, we have argued that the capability for collective defence should be at the centre of NATO’s priorities, at a time when international crisis management was the name of the game. We advocated for increased situational awareness, greater NATO involvement in training and exercises and strengthening the military cohesion of the alliance. I recall the initiative was met with a certain degree of scepticism, apparently because it potentially distracted our efforts in operations such as ISAF.   

Today, with the current security challenges, the refocus to the Alliance’s core areas has become a deed of necessity.

Located as we are at NATO’s northern flank, Norway is particularly concerned with the need for predictability and stability in our relations to Russia. We have a common interest in keeping the High North peaceful.

Russian military activity is in many ways at a level that you would expect of a military power of that size. In the High North, we have up until now not seen significant changes in the number of Russian flights, but importantly the pattern of activity is characterized by a new level of complexity. We take note of all the signs that together inform us that Russia’s military forces are more and more capable.

We also note that Russia is more assertive in its foreign policy. It has raised its ambitions, and it has demonstrated will to use its military power to reach strategic and political ends. In its annexation of Crimea and operations in Eastern Ukraine, Russia intervened militarily and attempted to maintain deniability. Hybrid warfare or not, an aggression is an aggression.

The Russian combination of military capability and political will to use that force, is a concern we share especially with our allied partners in Eastern Europe. They are witnessing increased military activity along their borders and around the Baltic Sea. Russian flights across the Baltic Sea increased threefold in 2014 compared to 2013. Allied and non-allied countries alike have experienced border violations.

Let me be clear. Russia has upgraded its military capability significantly. The Russian actions in Ukraine have fundamentally altered the security situation in Europe. Russia poses no direct threat to Norway today, but the recent actions have implications for Norwegian security policy and the military situation in the High North. We need to take that fact, that reality into account. We need to follow capacities as intentions can change quickly.

The trust has been broken, so even if there is a lasting solution to the Ukraine situation, we are faced with a different Russia. We are in a situation that will not pass quickly. Russia can only rebuild the trust by changing its course and respecting international law and the UN charter. This is what I emphasized in my interview on CNN two weeks ago. In one sentence: we must take the situation as it is, not as we wish it were.

Making collective defence a reality: increased preparedness

Let me turn to how we make collective defence a reality. At the Wales summit, we committed ourselves to strengthening NATO’s preparedness. The Readiness Action Plan (RAP) provides a comprehensive package of measures. This is in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but also threats emanating from the Middle East and North Africa.

Improving our preparedness is a key parameter for credible and capable defence. It is when we think of collective defence as a generic concept that concerns us all, no matter where we face the challenge, that we see the strength of the concept. But this depends on our ability to fill it with meaning.

Let me run through some examples of what we are currently undertaking to ensure our ability to deter and defend. 

  • NATO and Norway are updating contingency plans in order to be better prepared for collective defence. We will continue to deter potential aggressors and reassure our allied friends that the Article V commitment is unwavering. As reassurance measures, NATO’s decision to deploy air, sea and land forces to the Baltic region is a strong message about our collective will to take action.
  • Norway has contributed to concrete reassurance measures. In 2014 we deployed a company from our Telemark Battalion to exercise in Latvia and we contributed heavily to NATO’s Standing Naval Maritime Force. In 2015 we will participate in Baltic Air Policing (BAP) and a series of exercises. We welcome the increased focus on NATO Response Force (NRF). Our forces – together with Netherlands and Germany – will test the newly-adopted Very High Readiness Joint Task Force – the spearhead of NRF. This is no small feat.
  • We are cooperating with other countries, for instance in the German-led Framework Nations Concept and the British-led Joint Expeditionary Forces initiative. These are both multinational security efforts that will strengthen Allied capabilities and interoperability.
  • Joint exercises ensure that NATO structures have the necessary ability to work together. This year, Norwegian forces are among the 25,000 allied forces exercising together on the Iberian Peninsula in the 2015 High Visibility Exercise that focuses on crisis management. NATO’s High Visibility exercises take place every third year, with the aim of increasing our ability to operate jointly on our own territory. We are very proud that the North Atlantic Council has accepted Norway’s offer to host the High Visibility exercise in 2018. In consistence with our long term efforts, this exercise will focus on collective defence. Of course we welcome the opportunity to raise the Alliance’s awareness of the North, but it is important to note that the exercise will benefit all allied and partner nations.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to exercise and train. I visited Joint Viking Sunday and Monday, a national exercise in Finnmark. I am really proud of our men and women in uniform. Our armed forces conduct large exercises every year, to ensure that we are “fit for fight”, to improve deployability, logistics and combat proficiency. Joint Viking was planned and notified long before the Ukraine crisis and is part of our normal exercise programme. The Norwegian Armed Forces must defend the whole country, therefore we must also conduct exercises in all parts of our country.

Our daily activities in the High North also include border guards, maritime patrols and surveillance. Our operations at sea and in the air provide us with situational awareness that is crucial to national decision making. Increased Norwegian maritime patrolling in the North demonstrates presence.

If 2014 has taught us anything, it is that our security landscape can change, and it can change rapidly. This time, we should not allow the pendulum to swing too far. I agree with the recent statements from Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, that NATO structures and capabilities need to be developed with all three of NATO’s core tasks in mind. Revitalizing collective defence does not stand in contrast to crisis management and cooperative security. To the contrary, there is synergy between these tasks.

Indeed, we continue to see the need for military contributions outside allied territory. In 2015, Norway is sending forces to Iraq for capacity building to contribute to the coalition against ISIL. The experience after years in Afghanistan tells us that joint operations increase interoperability and strengthen solidarity.

Conclusion

Dear friends,

It is not too often that diplomats, policy makers and researchers from so many countries are gathered, so let me offer some closing remarks before I open up for questions and comments. I am sure none of you need to be reminded of the severity of the security challenges that we are facing not only in Northern Europe, but in several regions. Nevertheless, I hope that my remarks have showed that it takes many steps to turn the slogan “one for all, all for one” into reality.

In Wales we renewed our pledge of solidarity. All our collective efforts – exercises, deployments, and higher readiness – are transforming that pledge into more than words.

One year after the annexation of Crimea I think we can say that we have passed the first test. The Wales summit declaration is testament to the Alliance’s ability to adapt to new realities in an ever-changing world. In sum, we see a return to the core idea of NATO as a security community.

Many of you know that all our efforts to revitalize collective defence and improve our preparedness come at a cost. A cost that can be hard to justify against other pressing demands from society, and not least in light of the economic crisis. As the challenges rise around us, defence budgets have been declining. In 2014, 21 out of 28 allies spent less on defence than in 2008. Our ability to share the burden of collective defence is a pressing issue that puts each of our allies’ ability to prioritize to the test.

Many European countries experience domestic political tensions that aggravate this challenge. Staying firm in our commitment to the indivisibility of European security, we need to accept that security comes at a cost. Norway recognizes the need for a better burden-sharing within the Alliance. We also acknowledge that even with the many important decisions we have made regarding rapid reaction forces, a credible collective defence also depends on the depth of our force structures. Put differently, it is not enough to have rapid reaction forces if there are no forces to support that effort in the long run.

This means that there is work yet to be done, and there are tough decisions ahead of us, also in Norway. We are currently standing in the midst of a defence review (LTP) for the Norwegian Armed Forces that will be presented to Parliament early spring 2016. The Chief of Defence will submit his independent Military Advisory Report by October 1. We also have an Expert Group under the steady leadership of Professor Rolf Tamnes.

We already know that it will be hard to strike the right balance between the level of ambition and current structure on one hand and the available resources on the other.

We are not driven by any specific threat, but we develop our military forces in accordance with the unfolding security challenges. Last year’s developments have showed us that defence planning must take into account an increasingly complex and unpredictable picture.

I am sure you will touch upon many important questions in your discussions today, such as: are we prepared to meet tomorrow’s threats? We take pride in funding the research programme on Security and Defence in Northern Europe, especially on a day like this. I look forward to seeing more results of the cooperation between IFS, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik and Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Thank you for listening. I am now happy to take questions.