Speech/statement | Date: 21/10/2022 | Office of the Prime Minister
In the last few weeks, the war in Ukraine has become even more serious.
This is affecting the security policy situation in Europe, with tensions rising as a result of incidents such as the pipeline sabotage in the Baltic Sea.
Norway is taking various steps to safeguard its security and important infrastructure, and to meet a growing intelligence threat.
We can see that the repercussions of the war in Ukraine are being felt more strongly in Norway and in our day-to-day lives.
This is why I have asked you to come here today.
The war in Ukraine is now in a new and even more serious phase.
There has been fierce fighting in the south and east of the country, and many lives have been lost on both sides of the conflict.
Ukrainian forces are continuing to show their determination to push back the Russian occupying forces.
Given the plans the Russian leaders probably had when the invasion began in February, the war appears to have been very unsuccessful and costly for Russia, and has intensified internal pressures on the regime.
As a result, we can see that the Russian pattern of warfare has changed.
Kamikaze drones are now attacking Ukrainian towns and cities every day.
This campaign of terror is hitting civilian targets and killing innocent people.
Children are being killed while asleep in bed. People are being killed on their way to work.
This is a serious breach of international humanitarian law, which sets out clear requirements for distinguishing between civilian objects and military objectives.
According to President Zelensky, Russia has severely damaged 30 % of Ukraine’s power plants in the past week. Just as winter is approaching. This is also a serious violation of international law.
In Russia, some people are openly calling for the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine. This has been the case since the war started, but is now being expressed more explicitly in various channels.
This is clearly meant as a threat, primarily directed at Ukraine, but also as a signal to the US and to people in Europe.
Two weeks ago, Russia annexed four regions of Ukraine as Russian territory. This is also forbidden under international law. Apart from Russia, only Syria, North Korea, Nicaragua and Belarus voted against a resolution condemning the annexation in the UN General Assembly. This illustrates the widespread rejection of Russia’s actions across the world.
Russia has announced that it will defend the areas it claims to be Russian territory by all means necessary. The country has mobilised several hundred thousand new soldiers.
Every day, soldiers are being killed and maimed, and towns and cities are being reduced to rubble.
Terrible scenes are being played out on the battlefield in Ukraine.
All this means that the war has become even more serious in a short space of time.
The situation in Ukraine continues to give cause for grave concern.
The Russian regime is portraying NATO and the West as an enemy. We must repeat yet again that there is no military threat to Russia.
Norway and NATO pose no threat to anyone. On the contrary, NATO is a defence alliance.
It safeguards the freedom and security of all member countries. It provides Norway with security, alongside our own defence capabilities.
Together with our allies, we condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We support Ukraine’s right to self-defence.
We will do this in a way that does not cause the conflict to escalate.
We are calling for a halt to the hostilities. There will come a time when this war too has to end around a negotiating table.
This looks difficult at present. But the agreement on Black Sea grain exports shows that it is possible to find solutions.
However, the fact that there is so little contact and direct communication with Russia is cause for concern.
We must seek to ensure that there are political communication channels that can both prevent misunderstandings and provide opportunities for bringing the war to an end and reducing the level of tension.
This is primarily for Ukraine’s sake. But it will also benefit the rest of Europe and other parts of the world, which are being affected by the many ramifications of the war.
Norway has now taken in more than 30 000 Ukrainian refugees, a figure that was reached earlier this week. We have never settled so many people in such a short time. Municipalities, volunteers, employers, sports teams and communities are all playing a part in this. Their efforts are impressive, and I believe this demonstrates the generosity and compassion of local communities across Norway.
We will welcome and look after people seeking refuge from the war in Norway. We must expect the stream of refugees from Ukraine to continue in the weeks and months ahead.
It is currently difficult to assess how many refugees will come to Norway, but the situation will continue to require a great deal of work by the municipalities. The Government will provide support. I will be talking to Norwegian municipalities about this at a meeting tomorrow, together with several government colleagues.
Norway will continue to provide support for people who are living with the war on their doorstep.
One of our contributions is an initiative to secure funding for the procurement of natural gas that can be stored and will help Ukrainians get through the coming winter.
We are also looking into ways to assist in repairing and replacing energy infrastructure that has been destroyed in the last few days, leaving tens of thousands of Ukrainians without power.
In recent weeks, we have become aware that the repercussions of the war are being felt more strongly here in Norway. The IMF has identified three major headwinds to global growth: the Chinese economy is stalling, inflation is rising in the wake of the pandemic, and the reverberations of the war in Ukraine are spreading across the globe.
Many people in Norway are concerned by the observations of drones in recent weeks. Seven Russian citizens have been arrested and placed in custody for flying drones illegally in Norway.
The Norwegian Police Security Service has taken over the investigation of these incidents. They have indicated that the arrests may reflect a willingness by Russia to take greater chances in its intelligence activities.
We must not be surprised if there are more arrests of this kind in the time ahead.
During the year, we have been strengthening our capacity to detect and stop such activities. The Minister of Justice and Public Security will say more about this.
The blasts that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines are very serious, and are being investigated by Sweden and Denmark, with technical assistance from Norway.
These incidents have raised awareness about security at our own oil and gas installations. Norway is now Europe’s largest gas supplier.
Many talented women and men are working tirelessly in the industry, both onshore and offshore, to deliver as much gas as possible to European countries that are in the midst of a deep energy crisis.
Effective cooperation between the industry and the authorities has enabled the companies to increase gas exports by almost 10 %. This is a significant increase, which has helped both to prevent prices from rising even higher and to refill gas stores.
People working in the gas industry are doing a vital job for us and the rest of Europe. I expressed our support for them when I visited the Sleipner platform three weeks ago.
Security and guard patrols have been increased onshore and offshore. The Norwegian Navy is patrolling in the North Sea, together with our allies, to safeguard Norwegian oil and gas installations and everyone working there. The Home Guard is maintaining a visible presence at onshore installations.
The police, the Norwegian Police Security Service and the Norwegian National Security Authority are now working more closely together to defend us against cyber threats. These are real, serious threats to our country, including the Norwegian oil and gas industry.
Many people become anxious when the topic of nuclear weapons comes up, as it has done recently. When one of our neighbouring countries threatens to use nuclear weapons, this naturally creates fear.
Let me be absolutely clear: nuclear weapons must never be used.
A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought. The Russian regime is well aware of this.
I would like to reiterate what we said when doubts were raised about the security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant earlier this year:
Norway has a sound nuclear emergency preparedness and response system in place, which would be activated if winds carried radioactive fallout towards Norway. We have updated our plans and stand ready to respond effectively to this kind of situation.
But I understand that many people are worried. It is now 60 years since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when nuclear tensions ran high. Over the past few days, I have talked to many children and young people who are frightened by everything that is happening.
And I understand why.
I will say again now what we have said in other forums; there is no direct military threat to Norway.
But we have been strengthening our preparedness step by step ever since December last year, before the war started, when we saw the build-up of military forces in Russia near the Ukrainian border.
We have good plans in place that include both military and civilian measures. The Government is working week by week to ensure that the plans are fully understood and supported by all those who will be involved. Together with our allies, we have been gradually putting the measures in these plans into practice.
Action is being taken both within NATO and in Norway.
It includes measures that we cannot talk about openly.
The Government’s most important job is to safeguard Norway.
The war has entered a more serious phase, and it has come closer to us; we are feeling the effects more keenly in our daily lives here in Norway.
It is worth pointing out once again that current high electricity prices in Norway are due to the broader situation caused by the war in Ukraine. If we could turn back the clocks so that there was no war, there would be no gas crisis in Europe. We would have had some problems related to the low levels of our storage reservoirs, but this would not have had anywhere near the impact on prices and stability in Europe that we are now seeing.
I understand that the situation is unsettling for people.
This is also part of Russia’s purpose, as it conducts warfare within Ukraine and other activities outside Ukraine.
Russia is seeking to sow division and create uncertainty, in an attempt to reduce or even put an end to our assistance to Ukraine.
That support is vital for Ukraine. Without it, the country will not be able to resist Russia’s attacks.
That is why Norway is standing together with its European neighbours and NATO Allies in supporting Ukraine’s right to self-defence and to independence.
We are stepping up our already close cooperation with the other Nordic countries. In the area of defence, we are seeking to align our plans and ensure effective coordination in advance of Sweden and Finland becoming NATO members. Yesterday, I had a productive conversation about this with Sweden’s new Prime Minister.
The Russian regime knows that it is crucial for Ukraine that the West remains united. And Russia is trying to challenge the Western countries, as they stand together.
For example, by stopping gas deliveries to Europe so that gas prices skyrocket.
And trying to scare us by threatening to use nuclear weapons.
And expanding its intelligence activities, which in turn creates a feeling of insecurity among people.
It is therefore vital to keep a cool head and take the necessary measures to safeguard Norway’s security. This is the Government’s most important task.
But we must be prepared to face further attempts to create fear and uncertainty in new and unknown ways, here in Norway too.
Let me be quite clear.
We will not be intimidated. We will stand together with our allies.
We will continue to support Ukraine.