Historical archive

Writing NATO’s Next Chapter: The View from Norway

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Defence

Forsvarsminister Ine Eriksen Søreide holdt i dag en tale om Natos fremtid, og understreket igjen viktigheten av det transatlantiske forholdet til USA. Talen ble holdt på Center for Strategic and International Studies (csis.org).

Forsvarsminister Ine Eriksen Søreide holdt i dag en tale om Natos fremtid, og understreket igjen viktigheten av det transatlantiske forholdet til USA. Talen ble holdt på Center for Strategic and International Studies (csis.org).

Du kan også se talen på CSIS sin hjemmeside her.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, thank you for this opportunity to give my perspectives on NATO and the future of the transatlantic relationship. I especially want to extend my gratitude to CSIS, and to Dr. John Hamre personally, for your longstanding work on transatlantic security. Your important endeavors have found an impressive home in this wonderful new building. As an acknowledgment of your contributions in the field of transatlantic security – as well as your crowning achievement of this magnificent new headquarters – I want to present you a gift on behalf of the Norwegian government:

(Gave overleveres)

The weapon is an American model 1911, Norwegian model M 1914. The gun is produced under license at the Kongsberg Weapons Factory in Kongsberg, Norway. Norway is the only country with a license to produce this Colt.

This Colt was the first semiautomatic weapon introduced in the Norwegian Armed Forces, beginning in 1914.After the invasion of Norway by German forces in 1940, the Germans continued the production. The Colt was during the war used by German forces, with a German control label.

During the German occupation the workers at the Kongsberg Weapons Factory were in secret working underground for the Resistance Movement. The workers smuggled out gun parts from the factory, usually in their lunch boxes.  The pistols were later assembled in the woods, and became the weapon of choice for all the men and women in the Norwegian Resistance Movement.

The weapon has become an important symbol of Norwegian-American friendship and partnership, and solidarity during times of crisis. This Colt has also been a representation of the close bonds between our special forces, which in Norway’s case was founded in the Norwegian Resistance Movement. Finally, the gun represents the gratitude of the Norwegian people to the USA for its support in the victory over Nazism during World War II.



The transatlantic relationship and the future of NATO are at the top of the agenda for my government. We took office in October and I have made it a priority to come to Washington as early as possible because I want to make one point absolutely clear: the US is our most important ally - and we do not take you for granted. I have said this in meetings I have had earlier this week, and  I will make this point also when I meet with Secretary Hagel tomorrow.

We have a long shared history – a history that we still remember. We will never forget your enourmous sacrifices in the two world wars. Sacrifices securing the liberty of Europe and other parts of the world. We stood together during the trials of the Cold War. And over the past two decades the soldiers of our nations have fought shoulder to shoulder in demanding operations across the globe. Too often making the ultimate sacrifice.

We should also have a long and shared future – but I am under no illusion that this future is predetermined. We have to define it, frame it, and build it - together. So I will make the case here today for a continued strong transatlatic relationship with NATO at its core. And I pledge to make every effort to make sure Norway makes the best possible contributions to such a shared future.

The Importance of the Transatlantic Partnership

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Does the transatlantic relationship still matter? My answer is a loud and emphatic “yes”. Let me explain why.

We live in a highly volatile world. On the one hand globalization and technological developments have raised the standard of living for a large portion of the world’s population. The world today presents more opportunities for economic freedom than ever. On the other hand threats to our security are not disappearing. Indeed, threats are increasing in number and complexity.

We have lived now for a while with the growing threat of terrorism and other asymetric challenges. I now see a growing risk of symetric challenges as well. New powers are rising – old are reemerging – the global power system is shifting. This could and should be managed without military conflict, but history has taught us many hard lessons. We cannot ignore that we seem to be entering a period of potential rivalry among increasingly capable major powers.

Even in Europe there are worrying trends. Nationalism is on the rise in certain parts of Europe, including tendencies towards a renationalization of defense and security policies. The financial crisis has led to increasing popular resistance to the established European order. Massive youth unemployment presents a significant challenge, and we can not exclude the possibility of increasing social unrest.

I see the transatlantic relationship as a source of stability in a world that sometimes can seem adrift. It provides not only regional, but also contributes to global stability. The need for a transatlantic security partnership – based on common values, norms, and principles – is as great as ever.

The transatlantic partnership as it exists today, would not have been possible had it not been institutionalized through NATO. NATO’s value as a political alliance should not be underestimated. Multilateral work is often hard and at times frustrating. But over time, NATO facilitates political cohesion by forming common approaches and building military capability.

What makes NATO truly unique – and sets it apart from all other alliances and organizations – is the combination of its integrated military structures and its permanent political decision-making mechanisms. No other organization has this combination of common defense planning, a common command structure, and a North Atlantic Council that is able to make political decisions on a 24/7 basis. This makes it the only multinational entity which can carry out high-intensity operations on short notice. This capability must be maintained.

So for Norway, the value of the transatlantic partnership – and NATO as its institutional manifestation – is beyond doubt. However, we are faced with numerous challenges.

As the world changes, so does the transatlantic relationship. The debate on NATO and on the transatlantic relationship, seen from Europe, tends to be about fear of US abandonment. These fears have been accentuated by the US intention to re-balance to the Asia/Pacific. Norway still calls for continued US leadership in order to preserve the transatlantic community, but from our point of view we see the US focus on Asia as a natural response to the changes in the global power structures. In fact this US engagement in the part of the world perhaps the single most important contribution to global security.

In the future, US presence in Europe will be different in nature than it is today. But we trust that the US will still retain a robust presence linked among other things to the establishing of missile defence systems in Europe, and through annual participation in training and exercises. If Europe and the US manage this in a constructive manner, a reduced permanent US presence in Europe will be replaced by a more active and relevant presence.

However, it is important that the debate not only focuses on how and at what level the US engages in Europe. We need to take a hard look at burden-sharing, and Europe needs to contribute our share to our common security. The situation today – where the US shoulders more than 70% of NATO’s defense expenditure – is simply not sustainable. It is indeed undermining the very core of the transatlantic relationship. 

The US is faced with significant economic challenges of its own, along with a difficult domestic political situation. The new generation of US policy-makers does not necessarily have the same close historical ties to the transatlantic relationship developed during the decades of the Cold War. Nor do they have the same experience with NATO. Today you are more likely to meet officers and officials who have served in the Pacific or in the Middle East, rather than in Europe.

After my meetings in Congress yesterday I was left with a clear impression that there are growing factions on both sides of the aisle that are questioning the value of continued US investments and engagement in Europe.  What this means is that we in the future no longer can take for granted the current US engagement in NATO. Norway understands this.

So we know what the challenges are. The true question is what can and should be done. Allow me to make three propositions.

  1. First of all Europe needs to demonstrate clearly that we are willing to invest in our own security. Realizing that many European countries are still burdened by the financial crisis, we still need to maintain credible defenses. We cannot expect the US to invest in European security when we are not willing to make necessary investments ourselves.

I realize Norway is in a better economic situation than many of our European Allies, since we were spared the worst effects of the financial crisis. However, I can assure you that Norway still faces the same dilemmas as other countries when it comes to public spending. We have had to make some tough choices, but we have come to the conclusion that we need to keep spending on defense.

On the one hand this is because we believe that military threats have not disappeared, and that we need the national ability to meet these threats. On the other hand we see our significant investments in our own defense as a contribution to stronger collective defense and security within Europe, and across the Atlantic.

We have over the past decade steadily increased our defense budgets. We are investing in deployable high-end capabilities such as new AEGIS-frigates, new F-35 combat aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft and a major modernization of our Army. These are capabilities that both serve our national needs. But they are also contributions to NATO’s ability to execute collective defense, as well as out-of-area crisis response operations.

Our transformation is not taking place in “splendid isolation”. Our posture remains linked to the transatlantic community and to NATO. For the high-end challenges Norway still depends on firm support from NATO and from individual allies.

Close bilateral ties with the US will also remain crucial. A good example of this cooperation is the current development and expansion of the concept of US Marine Corps’ prepositioning of military equipment in Norway. This is of mutual benefit, both providing Norway with increased reassurance, and assisting the US in putting in place a more flexible and cost-effective operational concept of forward deployment.

  1. Secondly, I want to emphasize that burden-sharing encompasses more than the level of defense budgets. Europe also needs to take a greater share of the political burdens. This goes beyond defense. The process of removing chemical agents from Syria is a good example. This is close to Europe, and several NATO-Allies are directly affected by what happens in Syria. It is only natural that European countries assist in this operation. I am glad that Norway, in close cooperation with Denmark and the US, are contributing to this operation. Our civilian transport vessel as well as a frigate for escorting began the operation on Tuesday, and the first shipment out of Syria has been completed. This is transatlantic burden-sharing in practice.
  2. Thirdly, Europe needs to demonstrate a greater understanding and willingness to address US security concerns, not only in Europe. The developments in the Asia/Pacific area are not only of consequence for the US. It affects all of us. US engagement in this part of the world is important for global stability.

There is no hiding the fact that there are political and resources limitations to what Europe can do in Asia. Still, European Allies could and should demonstrate that we care about happens in the Asia-Pacific region, because this affects us all. We need to demonstrate that we stand ready to support the US in addressing its security concerns. That is the essence of transatlantic collective security.

For just this reason Norway has committed to participate in the naval exercise in the Pacific (RIMPAC 2014) with one of our frigates. Another measure that we should consider is holding more NATO exercises in North America. Europe needs to demonstrate that we are not only net importers of security, but that we in fact can be exporters of security as well.


The NATO Summit

Let me now turn to Norwegian perspectives on the future of NATO and the upcoming NATO-summit in Wales.

Many claim that as the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is coming to an end, NATO is at a crossroads. After almost 20 years involved in numerous out-of-area operations, we are facing a new period in the Alliance. NATO has been at crossroads before. The basic instinct among policymakers has often been to argue for the reinvention of NATO. The thesis being that unless NATO takes on new roles and missions, the Alliance will become irrelevant.

This does not hold true. NATO does not need to reinvent itself. We have the Strategic Concept adopted at the Lisbon Summit in 2010. The Concept gives good guidance on what should be the priorities of the Alliance in the coming years.

The real challenge is to make sure that Allies invest in new and relevant capabilities to conduct the task we have agreed on. Unfortunately, we are failing at this. The initiatives that we agreed on in Chicago have not been implemented. Partly this can be explained by the financial strains burdening the majority of Allies. However, the fundamental challenge is that there is simply not enough political engagement by Allies on NATO-issues. We need to break this pattern.

“Smart Defense” is in certain cases turning out to be less smart than we had envisioned. A key question is whether the «smart defense» we are now building really is smart, or just more or less random, but necessary rationalization policies and spending cuts forced upon us by outside forces – first among them fiscal pressure?

As we try to cope with fiscal constraints we need to acknowledge that cuts made outside a wider context, and without coordination in the community of allies, affect and weaken the whole of the alliance – not just the nation(s). We risk that the aggregated negative sum of the consequences is much greater than the parts as such.

The three core tasks we have agreed on for NATO is:

  1. Collective Defence
  2. Crisis management. That is, the ability to operate in high-intensity conflicts beyond NATO’s border.
  3. Cooperative security, in other words strengthening security partnerships with other nations and actors – leading to increased collective security and stability.

I believe we need a balanced approach – ensuring NATO’s ability to perform all its core tasks. In fact, the three tasks are linked. For example, it is our ability to meet potential threats against our own territories and populations which makes it possible for us to conduct high-intensity operations beyond our borders. At the same time, the interoperability we gain from operating together out of area increases our ability to provide collective defense at home.

Our concern is that we have not focused enough on our ability to do the collective defense and deterrence mission.  NATO’s most important task is to prevent an attack against Allied nations. To deter and dissuade a potential aggressor from contemplating military action against NATO’s territory and populations. Our deterrence posture is closely linked with the credibility of our collective defense.

The credibility of NATO’s ability to conduct collective defense is crucial for public support, as well as for the willingness of Allies to continue to invest in the Alliance. Military and political cohesion have made it possible for the Alliance to operate collectively in Kosovo and Afghanistan. This cohesion is coming under increasing strain, demonstrated most recently in in Libya.  There are many reasons why our cohesion is being challenged. I am convinced, though, that it will be even more difficult to maintain cohesion if we do not focus sufficiently on collective defense.

Specifically, I would propose the following three recommendations for the upcoming summit:

  1. Resume operational planning in a generic manner for future contingencies, taking into account the full spectrum of NATO missions. For this we need to make the NATO Command Structure more capable and usable, including strengthening our collective situational awareness.
  2. Increase NATO training and exercise actvity, thereby ensuring interoperability. Also these activities will provide a venue for exercising and validating NATO’s operational plans. Norway will continue to offer our territory for Allied training and exercises, and we are also considering an offer to host NATO’s High visibility exercise in 2018.
  3. We need to establish mechanisms whereby we can develop high-end deployable capabilities that are made available for NATO. This should include agreeing on key projects to meet critical capability shortfalls, and mechanisms for ensuring implementation.

I believe that this set of recommendations will strengthen the credibility of NATO, ensuring NATO’s continued relevance in the longer term as well as our future common defense and security. That, in essence, is what the upcoming NATO Summit should be about.



In conclusion:

Our ability to deal with the present and future security challenges depends on a strong and vital transatlantic link. We can no longer take the transatlantic relationship for granted. Steps need to be taken on both sides of the Atlantic. We need a better burden-sharing, where Europe needs to take a greater share of the costs and political burdens of providing security. This should start with Europe increasing our ability and willingness to invest in our own security.

The question can no longer only be “what can the US do for Europe”? We should take steps to engage more in those areas where Europe can actually support the US. More NATO activity on US soil and a greater European willingness to engage collectively or bilaterally outside the Euro-Atlantic area will be important.

Europe needs to step up to the plate, but we cannot escape the fact the future of NATO depends on strong US leadership and engagement. It will be up to myself and all transatlanticists to ensure that Washington continues to see the value of the Alliance and that Europe still matters. In a sea of instability – there is no better anchor than NATO.

In the Alliance, the US has a functioning military organization that is based on common values among its member states. The point about common values is often neglected. However, for Norway, this is as crucial as ever. Emerging powers are challenging these values, highlighting the need for more transatlantic cohesion.

Norway believes that global stability depends on the ability of Europe and the US to work together, and that this will become even more important in the future. Our hope is that the Summit will result in a common pledge of our continued willingness to make the necessary commitments to realize this future.

We need to go beyond slogans, and start making the tough decisions that are needed. The founding fathers of NATO heeded the call in 1949, ensuring freedom and security for its members during the Cold War. We do not face the same monolithic threat as they did, but the need for NATO is as great as ever. The present generation of transatlantic leaders – including myself – have been beckoned. Norway stands ready to heed the call. Our future common security depends on it.

That concludes my remarks.

Talen ble holdt på Center for Strategic and International Studies (csis.org).
Talen ble holdt på Center for Strategic and International Studies (csis.org).

Du kan også se talen på CSIS sin hjemmeside her.