Historical archive

Speeches and statements by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide

Foreign policy perspectives from the north

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide's speech at Chatham House, 4 December 2017 - on Norway's strategic role within Nato, developments in the Arctic, relations with Russia and brexit.

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Dear friends,

It is good to back here at Chatham House.

And here, at Chatham House, in the autumn of 1941, one of my predecessors gave one of the most influential speeches ever given by a Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Trygve Lie would a few years later become the first ever Secretary-General of the UN, but during the war, Lie was the Foreign Minister of the Norwegian government-in-exile, based here in London.

In the speech, Lie referred to Norwegians as "a people of the Atlantic", and called for a post-war alliance between the countries surrounding the North Atlantic.

He said "we are an Atlantic nation and we do want, above all, a strong, organised collaboration between the two great Atlantic powers, the British Empire and the United States of America", and the other nations surrounding the North Atlantic.

Trygve Lie's speech here at Chatham House is significant for two reasons.

First, because it was one of the first clearly stated official farewells to Norway's previous policy of neutrality.

And second, because it was one of the first speeches that called for the countries surrounding the North Atlantic to enter into a formal alliance after the war was over.

Eight years later, Norway became one of the founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And since the beginning, Norway has been the northern part of our Northern Alliance. Or as we like to say, we are Nato's gatekeeper in the north.

Today, I would like to present some foreign policy perspectives from the north.


First, some words about our bilateral relationship.

Norway and the UK are natural partners given our shared values, as well as our history and geography.

In his speech in 1941, Trygve Lie stressed that Norway as a maritime nation knows "that the sea does not divide, but it links people together", - just as the North Sea has linked the United Kingdom and Norway together for more than a millennium.

And it is not only the Vikings that have travelled from Norway to the UK. But also fishermen and traders, football players and football supporters, salmon and students, - and so has energy.

Norway has been a reliable gas supplier to the UK for many years. Today, Norway supplies approximately 40% of the UK's demand for natural gas.

Through our gas exports we have enabled the UK energy transition away from coal – a transition that significantly reduces UK CO2 emissions.

We have the technology and resources to be a significant supplier of energy - including renewable energy - for decades to come.

Just two weeks ago, a wind farm operated by the Norwegian companies Statoil and Statkraft was officially opened, just off the coast of Norfolk.

It will provide electricity to 400 000 British households, who now can make their tea and bake their Christmas pudding in a sustainable way.

Our common history also gives us strong bonds across the North Sea.

Winston Churchill once said: One always measures friendships by how they show up in bad weather.

When the storm of Nazi Germany's invasion hit Norway in 1940, the United Kingdom showed up for us. You became a safe haven from which the Norwegian King and Government could organise the resistance and prepare for post-war reconstruction.

The Norwegian Radio Broadcast – the voice from London – was the voice of hope and resistance for Norwegians throughout the war.

However, to this day, the most important accomplishments from those years and the years immediately after the war were the things we did together – with friends such as the US, Canada and other allies.

A close-knit community rose out of the ashes of the old security order.
A transatlantic community of allies that has stood the test of time.
A community that 70 years on still remains vibrant and very much alive.

Today, Norway and the UK are united in the fight against Isil, and we collaborate on a wide range of issues, from humanitarian assistance via peace and reconciliation to disarmament.


We are also in close contact with your Government regarding Brexit.

Norway may have voted against membership of the EU twice. However, we have not rejected to take part in European cooperation.

Norway cooperates closely with the EU, because we share a common set of values, because we need joint solutions to common challenges, and because it is in our own national interest to do so.

The UK's decision to leave the EU does not change this.

While almost 80 percent of Norwegian exports go to the EU, I understand that less than half of UK exports go to the EU.

Norway and the EU share many common rules, notably within the single market, through the EEA Agreement, as well as in Schengen.

This is why it is so important for us that the EU and the UK succeed in negotiating an orderly British withdrawal from the EU and a framework for their future relationship.

We have gained acceptance in Brussels for the view that the Norway, as well as Iceland and Liechtenstein, must be part of the solution on matters relating to the Single Market.

We are also encouraged by the message from Prime Minister May to our Prime Minister that the UK will extend its proposal on citizens' rights to Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein as well.

Not knowing what the future framework will be between the UK and the EU is a challenge for us, given the level of integration between Norway and the EU.

For while our relationship to the EU will not change because of Brexit, our relationship to the UK will change.

We may have to find some new ways of cooperation, but our clear goal is to continue to cooperate as closely and extensively as possible with the UK.

The heart of the matter is that the UK has always been one of our closest allies and partners – and I know that it will remain so in the future as well.


Today we are once again living in times that seem unpredictable and complex. It seems like change is the only constant.

Not even in the North are we immune to global changes and new security threats. Financial crises, terrorism, climate change and waves of migration are increasingly affecting our societies, our economies, and our security.

The unease many are feeling today, speaks volumes about how accustomed we have grown to seeing progress and greater security.

During our lifetime, extreme poverty has been more than halved. On every continent, people are living longer. Literacy rates have risen. Child mortality rates are falling. There have been tremendous technological advances. People, and especially girls, are getting a better education and have better health.

All of these are enormous achievements, and it is easy to take this progress for granted. And in fact, I think many of us did take it a bit for granted.

But these last years have shown that progress does not follow a linear line upwards and there is no unwritten rule that things will only get better.

While this is one of the key lessons from history, I nevertheless believe that at least some of us needed to be reminded of this again.

However, not very long ago, the situation was altogether different. Europe was the continent where the most extreme ideologies of the 20th century were formed and where the most brutal wars were fought.

But a new era began in post-war Europe. On the ruins of the old, we built a new political, economic and security architecture that we have benefited from ever since.

The establishment of the UN, Nato, EU, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe laid the foundations for a new world order, and after 1989, a completely new Europe.

And while both our countries will soon be outside the European Union, we still both belong to the community of nations that for decades have defended and promoted democracy, international law, human rights, gender equality, and the rule of law.

These common values have always united our two countries, and I know they will in the future too.

Standing up for these principles is not only valuable in its own right; it is also a defence of Norway and the UK, our citizens and our welfare.


Our relationship with Russia is an important element of Norwegian foreign policy. We must continue to deal with Russia in a consistent, firm, and predictable way.

As a neighbour with Russia, we have over the years developed cooperation on a broad range of areas. This cooperation is mutually beneficial and yields important results.

One example: the Barents Sea has significant maritime resources and has been economically important for both Norway and Russia for a long time.

Back in 1989, the Arctic cod stock was at an all-time low. Today, the stock is estimated to be ten times larger.

This development would not have been possible without the close and constructive cooperation between Russia and Norway in the field of fisheries.

The results of this cooperation are literally being harvested by Norwegian and Russian fishermen. The catch value of the fish resources managed by Russia and Norway alone corresponds to more than two billion dollars.

We also cooperate on a number of other issues – such as environmental protection, search and rescue at sea, people-to-people contact, as well as nuclear safety.

Our cooperation on these areas enhances security, stability and predictability.

In recent years, we have seen the emergence of a more assertive Russia.

In 2014, for the first time since the Second World War, a European country annexed a part of another country. Such violations of international law shake the foundations of the international architecture that we have built up since 1945.

Russia's great power aspirations have become clearer in recent years. Russia has significantly increased its military capabilities in line with these aspirations, as we have seen in Ukraine, Syria, and in our neighbouring areas.

In Russian society, we are also seeing shrinking democratic space and less respect for diversity of opinion in Russian society.

Most of our military cooperation with Russia - apart from search and rescue, coast guard, and border patrol - has been suspended due to the annexation of Crimea.

The negative developments in Russia and in its relations with the West are a cause for concern for Norway.

We have special responsibility both to ourselves and to the alliance to ensure stability in the High North.

This is a top priority, and the basis for our policy towards Russia as well as towards the Alliance.


In the Arctic - an area of vast natural resources and great strategic importance – Russia, Norway, and the other Arctic nations have found ways of working together, based on common interests and respect for international law.

Norway's number one priority is to make sure it stays this way.

Only then will we be able to use the Arctic's vast resources - and protect its fragile environment - to the benefit of future generations.

In the years to come, there will be increased demand for Arctic resources.

A growing global population will need more food, more energy, more minerals. And more goods will need to be shipped between continents. The Arctic can play an important role in addressing many of these future challenges.

The Arctic offers abundant natural resources as well as new trade routes that can provide a shortcut to Asia.

Some 10 % of Norway's population, around 500.000 people, live north of the Arctic Circle. In the last couple of years, economic growth in Northern Norway has been higher than in the rest of the country.

While we already have major industries in the north – such as oil and gas, fisheries and tourism – I nevertheless think we are only at the beginning in terms of seeing the opportunities that can open up in the Arctic.

But growth in the Arctic has to be sustainable. Regional security, economic development and environmental protection must go hand in hand.


Let me turn to Nato – as Im going straight from London to the Foreign Minister's meeting in Brussels tomorrow morning.

Nato is, and will remain, the cornerstone of Norwegian security and defense policy.

The Alliance is the only organisation to have both mutual defence commitments and a credible defence capability.

Nato is also far more than a military alliance; it's a transatlantic political community of shared values.

Some observers have expressed concerns about Natos future. But if there is one thing the Alliance has demonstrated over its almost 70 year history, it is its impressive ability to adapt to new situations, even in difficult times.

However, if Nato is to remain strong and united, we must continue to adapt. I want to share five points on how we can continue to make Nato fit for purpose.

First: maintain strong transatlantic ties.

The US is our most important ally and we are dependent on having a good relationship.

We will not always agree on all issues, as recent Twitter-exchanges has shown. But even when there are challenges, we must not forget how crucial cooperation with the US is for our security.

As Secretary Tillerson said last week, the US stands by its commitment to Nato. At the same time, the US is demanding a more reasonable burden-sharing. My experience from four years as Minister of Defense, having worked closely with three American defense secretaries, is continuity and deepening of bilateral relations.

It is not unreasonable to ask European countries to spend more on defence.

Norway has for the last couple of years been undertaking an historic budget increase and modernization of our armed forces, with large investments in new fighter jets, new submarines, new maritime patrol aircraft, as well as in intelligence capabilities and air defense systems.

Second: stronger cooperation between the EU and Nato.

Although we are not an EU-member, we welcome and encourage stronger cooperation between the EU and Nato, provided there is no duplication and the focus is on complementarity.

This would give us a better division of labor and greater value for money.

But more importantly it will enable us to better tackle the challenges of our time. Indeed, today's security challenges test us in new ways, as they often transcend traditional distinctions between internal and external security.

Our response must be equally quick and seamless, but also tailored to avoid miscalculations. We need to improve on how we inform both EU's and Nato's decision making. But we also need early involvement of key partners on both sides. In Nato and in the EU.

Norway will continue to contribute to European security, including EU missions and operations.

Third: strong focus on the North Atlantic, as part of the overall efforts to strengthen Natos collective ability.

The Russian Armed Forces – and in particular the Northern Fleet – have been significantly modernized.

As maritime, northern European Allies, the UK and Norway share similar challenges, especially as the military strategic importance of the North Atlantic is increasing.

Norway and the UK has therefore led efforts in the Alliance for a stronger emphasis on Natos maritime posture in the North Atlantic.

We can make an important contribution to the common effort in Nato by helping to safeguard our freedom of operation and freedom of movement in the maritime domain, especially the transatlantic sea lines of communication.

Let me also underline the importance of dialogue between Nato and Russia. Transparency and trust building is particularly important in more troubling times like today.

Fourth: better cohesion in Nato.

Nato is, and should remain, the most important forum for transatlantic security policy dialogue.

We need to share information and keep each other updated. It is also of outmost importance that all allies feels their security interests taken care of by Nato. We need to acknowledge that different countries have different interests and challenges.

We must succeed in implementing the new command structure that defense ministers agreed in October. This has been an important priority for the UK and Norway for the last three to four years.

We need to link our national military headquarters more closely to Nato's command structure, and we need to carry out more training and exercises together.

We must continuously make sure that all three core tasks of the Alliance – collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security – are continuously developed further.

And fifth: Nato must have the resources necessary to carry out its tasks.

Nato is clearly at its most effective when all its member states pull their weight in terms of funding.

In addition, more countries should follow the British and Norwegian example, of not only increasing defence expenditure and investments, but also investing in capabilities that serve the whole of the Alliance.

That is precisely what our two countries are doing as we acquire P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and F-35 fighter jets. This means that for time first time in 60 years, the UK and Norway will have the same fighter jets and the same military patrol aircrafts. Our first three F-35 arrived in Norway last month.

Last year, when I was Minister of Defense, Norway and the UK signed a joint UK-Norwegian declaration, stressing to deepen our operational collaboration in the North Atlantic. And in June, the two of us signed a trilateral agreement with the US on the same issue.


Finally and in conclusion, if we go back to 1941, an edited version of the speech that Trygve Lie gave here at Chatham House was a few days later turned into an op-ed in The Times.

It was entitled "A Community of Nations: plans for lasting peace after victory", and stressed the need for future close military, political, and economic cooperation between the countries bordering the North Atlantic, and especially between Norway and the UK, as well as the US.

I think if Trygve Lie had been alive today, he would have been pleased to see how the relationship between our two countries has deepened over the last seven decades.

As I said at the beginning of my speech: the UK is one of our closest allies and partners – and I know that it will remain so in the future as well.

Thank you.