State secretary Øystein Bø's speech to Army Summit 2015 “A millennium of Land Power – Our Forces and the Future”

State secretary Øystein Bø in The Ministry of Defence held this speech to The Army Summit 2015 “A millennium of Land Power – Our Forces and the Future”.

Statssekretær Øystein Bø
Statssekretær Øystein Bø Credit: Anette Ask, Forsvaret

*Check against delivery*

 

Flag officers, bearer of the War Cross with Sword, Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests.

For a former Infantry Officer, it is indeed a pleasure, and an honour, to open this year's Army Summit. I would like to thank General Rune Jakobsen and his dedicated team for putting together such an interesting programme. Let me also take the opportunity to thank you, General, for the outstanding work you have done as Chief of the Norwegian Army. I look forward to meeting you again in your new capacity as Commander of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, when you take up your next command there.

For six years in a row, Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide has addressed this Summit. As you may know, she is today in Fort Worth, Texas, at the rollout of our first F-35. However, thanks to modern technology, she can be two places at the same time! Let us hear what she has to say.

(Video message from Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide was shown)

Many of you will recognize the location of this video. Just three weeks ago, the new modern infantry fighting vehicles, the CV 90s, were handed over to the Norwegian Army at Setermoen.

Technological progress has always been a defining feature of warfare. Being second best is never an option. The CV 90s from the 1990s needed upgrading. At around 10 billion kroner, the new and upgraded CV 90s, frequently being referred to as the best combat vehicle available, represent the single largest investment in the Army in several decades.

Last spring, the government decided on another important investment - Anti-aircraft defence systems for the Army.

These investments bear evidence to our unwavering commitment to maintain a modern and capable land force.

Today's conference also invites reflections on the role of land power more broadly. This year, the Telemark Battalion has been participating in exercises and training in Norway, including joint exercises in Finnmark, with contributions from allies and partners. In addition to this important activity at home, it takes part in developing NATO's new rapid reaction force in combined operations with German and Dutch units. The Battalion also has troops in Iraq, participating in the training of Iraqi security forces as part of the coalition against ISIL.

No doubt, the Telemark Battalion operates well at home and abroad. It has participated in both joint and combined operations, showing the relevance of Norwegian ground forces. I am, as you can imagine, proud of the Norwegian Army: it is high quality with first class servicemen and -women.

The starting point for the utility of land power is Norway's commitment to international law. Politics and diplomatic means are our primary tools to promote the rule of law. Military power is in many ways the ultimate form of political commitment. Deployment of land forces, nationally, as well as internationally, must, therefore, always be in accordance with a mandate founded on international law.

We have seen examples to the contrary: Military power has been used to promote political aims in direct contradiction of international law. Let me make one thing clear: Might over right is not acceptable. That is why we need a strong national defence, and a credible NATO alliance, that can deter and defend against potential adversaries. This is our insurance policy.

Today's security situation

In recent years we have experienced a worsening of the security landscape in and around Europe. In 2014, we witnessed Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and the rapid and brutal advance of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, spreading into the rest of the Middle East, the Sahel region, and more recently even the Caucasus.

Connected to this, we see a massive flow of refugees pouring into Europe, creating challenges for all European countries, but an almost unsurmountable humanitarian crisis for the countries most affected. We see human suffering at a magnitude that leaves no one unaffected, and we all have to do our part to help. This might not be an Alliance issue as such, but, from an Alliance solidarity perspective, it is important that we support our Allies in the South in this matter.

The new security landscape highlight a defining feature of our security situation: It is unpredictable. Consequently, we need to improve our military preparedness.

There is, no doubt, work to be done here. Many nations have cut their defence budgets as a result of the economic crisis that hit Europe in 2008. In 2014, 21 of 28 Allies spent less on defence than they did in 2008. Increasing challenges have, so far, not put an end to this, although we see signs lately of increased will to halt the cuts, and to strengthen defence budgets.

The United States accounts for around 70 % of the NATO countries' overall defence spending. But, we should never take US leadership for granted. A better transatlantic burden-sharing is a crucial element in maintaining American engagement in Europe. Norway is one of few European countries that have maintained stable defence budgets through this period. Norway is currently spending 1.5 per cent of our GDP on defence, and we will strengthen our defence budget. Norway is also spending more than 20 per cent of the defence budget on investments, fulfilling NATO's investment pledge.

Given the increasingly complex and unpredictable security situation, new tensions could affect us. Even though we see no direct threat against Norway now, we could be faced with a situation, in which tension elsewhere might transfer to the North.

The strategic importance of the High North to Russia, makes it essential for Norway to pay attention to Russian military developments in the region. The Russian military reforms, which started in earnest in 2008, have resulted in increased capability, mobility and responsiveness. The reforms have improved the efficiency of command and control systems. Taken together, this means less warning time.

The increased capability is in itself understandable, given the state of the Russian Armed force after the end of the cold war. Combined with a demonstrated political will to use military force, we are, however, faced with increased uncertainty as regards Moscow's intentions.

Nuclear weapons are a high-priority in the modernization reforms. The Russian Bastion Defence Concept is designed to ensure sea control and sea denial, to protect the nuclear Triad in the Kola Peninsula. The area of operations of an activated Bastion Defence includes parts of Norwegian land and sea territory. The understatement of the day is that there is a considerable asymmetry between Norwegian and Russian military power in the North. Russia is clearly an important element in our defence planning.

Priority areas for our security and defence policy

In this challenging situation, we need to work hard to maintain proper situational awareness. Operations and logistics are two sides of the same coin, one cannot work without the other. But, the very currency of that coin is intelligence. Intelligence is key to military engagement. Next, we need to improve the readiness, fighting capability and the endurance of our forces. We need to increase military presence with relevant capabilities. We need to exercise and train more in the High North.

In NATO we work to strengthen NATO's collective defence capabilities, seek a closer cooperation with selected allies (especially the US), and maintain our abilities to contribute in international operations. Norway's efforts are in line with NATO's emphasis on credible collective defence.

Many important decisions were made at the Wales Summit. The commitment to strengthening NATO's preparedness through the Readiness Action Plan (RAP) is a direct response to Russia's actions in Ukraine, but also to threats emanating from the Middle East and North Africa.

It is our task in these difficult times to maintain preparedness at home and in NATO. We are working to make sure that our Armed Forces are continuously improving its fighting powers. On a day like today, it is appropriate to use the example of the F-35 investment. The F-35 is much more than a replacement of the F-16. It gives us a whole new capacity. It is a platform for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and with the Joint Strike Missile, the F-35 can locate and take out targets from a long distance and with high precision. The F-35 is a key contribution to the modernization of our Armed Forces. The F-35 is not just another Air Force platform; it is quintessentially a capability for joint operations. This investment increases our ability to meet critical situations that could threaten Norwegian security and sovereignty.

I make this point because the modern Norwegian Armed Forces depends on a strong Air Force, Navy and Army. In today's world it is not sufficient to have only one or two of these branches. It is the synergy that counts. Our credibility and capability is the result of how well we can fight together. To be able to do so we must train and exercise together.

But officers also need to understand each other's strengths to make the most out of combined and joint operations. This is a question of mind-set and doctrine. Land power will in the future be increasingly challenged by the development of long range precision weapons. This is something we need to pay attention to in order to secure our ability to fight – and not least to secure our most important asset, our soldiers – in the event of military threats.

The Army Summit is crucial to this end. It facilitates knowledge of and insight into land power; past, present and future. It encourages us to think. We need to be educated about the past, but also to think about the future with an open mind. The future does not begin tomorrow, it has already started!

Conclusion

Dear friends, you know as well as I that we live in "interesting times" (as the Chinese proverb goes). The Chief of Defence will submit his military advice October 1. His recommendation is an important input for the strategic review which will be submitted to Parliament next spring. Our ambition is to strengthen national defence, strengthen NATO's collective defence and contribute to international operations. It goes without saying that land power is essential in all three settings.

Towards the end I would like to make reference to the British warrior-scholar J.F.C Fuller. He insisted that great soldiers need to combine body, mind and soul. This translates into fighting power, thinking power and staying power. In other words, we all need to combine physical stamina with psychological agility and moral strength. That is to me the very characteristics of our soldiers, sailors and airmen. Building on these qualities, we have a great point of departure.

Finally, I know that soldiers like quick and to-the-point messages. Let me honour that tradition this morning, and close with a 27 second summary of where we need to go.

We need to maintain relevant situational awareness. We need to improve the readiness, fighting capability and the endurance of our forces. We need to increase our military presence with relevant operational capabilities. We need more exercises and training in the High North. We must strengthen NATO's collective defence capabilities, seek a closer cooperation with selected allies, and maintain our abilities to contribute in international operations. Let us do all of this together.

Thank you.