Speach from Minister of Defence, Bjørn Arild Gram at Berlin Security Conference 1. December 2022.
About the conference: Conference - Berlin Security Conference (euro-defence.eu)
Dear distinguished guests.
It is a great honor for me to open the second day of the Berlin Security Conference.
Norway is honoured to co-host this event with Germany, and I look forward to an interesting day with important discussions.
It’s difficult to start a speech at a security conference these days without reflecting on the severe consequences of Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine.
Norways neighbor in the high north, Russia, has made an unprovoked attack on a peaceful neighbor further south. No matter of geography, it is an attack on our common values, and it is a threat to the security of the whole of Europe and the North Atlantic area.
The Russian invasion continues to inflict destruction and suffering on the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is fighting to remain free and democratic.
We stand together with Ukraine and remain committed in our support both militarily and politically against Russia’s brutal aggression.
Through our united support to Ukraine, we send a strong signal. We will not accept the illegal invasion of a neighboring state.
Support to Ukraine
That is the reason why Norway will with important allies continue to support Ukraine – for as long as it takes.
We have donated a range of weapons systems including, artillery, ammunition and anti- armor weapons in addition to medical supplies, field rations and winter gear. We have supported the donation of advanced air-defence systems and long-range artillery.
Like most other nations, our stockpiles are unfortunately running low. But I have listened very carefully to the NATO Secretary General and to our Ukrainian friends. Jens has made it very clear – we should all dig deeper. The fight for freedom is faught - right now. So we will dig even deeper. And we will provide more weapons from our own stocks.
We will in fact make every effort to help provide the needed weapons to Ukraine. Norway will therefore also use all available international funding mechanisms. We have already provided significant funds to the UK led International Fund for Ukraine. Our experience is positive. Weapons are procured and delivered to the front.
The Russian attack makes NATO more relevant again for all allies. NATO is not an active part of this conflict. But developing NATO´s relationship with Ukraine is vital to their future. That is why Norway has decided to be a significant contributor to the NATO Comprehensive Assistance Program to the Ukraine – providing an initial 30 million euros.
The EU has already made important and innovative support to Ukraine. Norway is not an EU-member. But we have met the invitation from Germany and our European friends – and we have announced earlier that we are making a financial contribution to the EU training mission (15 mill euros). Today, I am making a further announcement – we are offering the EU a contribution of Norwegian instructors as well to the EUMAM
We make this offer because we believe the training of Ukrainian forces is absolutely key to success.
The Ukrainians need large scale basic training, but also the ability to lead and execute larger operations. And as the weapon systems they operate are getting more advanced, so must their training.
Norway is already providing instructors to the British led Operation Interflex in the United Kongdom and we have offered to increase our contribution in 2023 as well as our contribution to the EUMAM.
I would like to express my gratitude to our allies, including the US, the UK, and Germany who have led allies along in making training work. And once again I want to express our sincere gratitude for the tremendous efforts Poland is making on so many fronts.
In a response to Western support for Ukraine, Russia tries to divide us.
We have responded in a cohesive manner and with a strong will to counter this challenge together. We must continue to underline our strong political and military unity also in the long term.
We must remain steadfast in our common efforts to counter Russian malign activities and threats.
And Russia is indeed waging a hybrid campaign directed at Europe - and at our will to sustain sanctions and Ukrainian support. They have weaponized energy – clearly having identified energy as a possible European weak spot.
Norway takes the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines very seriously.
As Europe’s largest supplier of gas, we are closely monitoring the situation on the Norwegian continental shelf.
In recent years, Norway has supplied between 20 and 25 per cent of the EU and United Kingdom gas demand. In response to the energy crisis, Norwegian companies have substantially increased their natural gas production, by almost 10 percent.
With the new Baltic Pipeline in place, the Norwegian network will bring gas from the Norwegian continental shelf to Germany, the United Kongdom, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries in the region. This will hopefully contribute to stronger energy security in Europe.
The Norwegian Armed Forces have increased its presence in areas around critical infrastructure related to Norwegian oil and gas installations.
The Armed Forces are cooperating in an unprecedented way with the petroleum companies operating on our continental shelf, to help maintain security.
We highly appreciate offers from allies to help secure our oil and gas infrastructure. So far, several allies have patrolled the area in cooperation with the Norwegian coast guard and navy.
Germany has been an important contributor by providing naval presence and increased focus on energy security for Northern Europe. I recently visited the frigate Rheinland-Pfalz in Northern Norway – and was pleased to see both the professionalism of her crew, but also her voyage through the relevant energy areas of the North Sea together with two other German frigates.
I very much welcome the German-Norwegian initiative launched yesterday by the Chancellor and Prime Minister. We will work together on making NATO even stronger on protecting the undersea infrastructure that is critical to our nations.
Hybrid threats from Russia towards critical infrastructure in all western countries is made with a purpose to erode our will to support Ukraine.
While the obvious threat is towards the European energy sector, we should also be aware of our vulnerabilities in other critical infrastructure, such as the telecom and the cyber domains.
The High North and the Arctic
Norway is a major maritime nation. Our position in energy, shipping and sea food are all substantial parts of world production – and they are all maritime.
The High North and the Arctic remains a region of strategic importance. It is an area of vast resources. Energy – sea food – minerals – and a potential new trading route.
Norway is continuously following the development in the High North. The melting of the ice caps is offering new opportunities and new challenges.
This area is also of strategic importance to Russia. Russian great power ambitions are having an effect also in the north. New bases have been constructed along the Arctic coast to support the Russian Northern Sea Route.
Since 2008 Russia has conducted substantial rearmament programs. Testing and fielding of new weapon systems is taking place in the north, and military exercises and drills are conducted southwards toward the UK and the North Atlantic.
The conventional Russian weapon systems in the land domain that are now worn down in Ukraine are not the ones we primarily worry about in the High North. The Russian strategic maritime assets are still intact. And the reduction of Russian conventional capabilities, in the war against Ukraine, will increase the importance of these strategic capabilities on the Kola Peninsula and the bastion defense in the North Atlantic.
The Norwegian government has established an independent defense commission to make recommendations on how to ensure our country is prepared to meet security challenges of today and tomorrow.
As Minister of Defence I have just asked the CHOD for his advice on the future development of the Norwegian Armed Forces. When I receive all of these important advice in the Spring, I will then develop a new four year long-term plan for the Norwegian armed forces.
We need to develop forces which are able to deter the new level of threat toward the Euro-Atlantic area. Norway wants to continue to be a relevant and efficient ally.
With our position in close proximity of the Russian Northern Fleet, the length of the Norwegian coastal areas and the enormous size of the surrounding maritime areas, modernizing and expanding our Navy will be one important part of this plan.
Although, we will focus on developing our armed forces to address challenges in the High North, it is imperative to increase interoperability with Allies in all domains and on all levels, to strengthen both our national defence and the Alliance.
We will also develop our ability to detect and to counter hybrid threats to our society. Norway will continue to introduce new technologies. We are constantly looking for ways to excel in competence and skills among our personnel.
Norway is fortunate to have a defence industry, that is present here today NAMMO and Kongsberg that is well positioned in the technological race. The combination of innovation and ability to develop and field new technologies is a crucial quality. However, the production rate needs to be enhanced.
For Norway – the future of NATO is absolutely central to our security. NATO must continue to develop to become even more relevant and efficient, both on the political and the military level.
We are looking forward to finalizing the new regional NATO plans. We expect that Norway will fall under a new regional plan for NATO Joint Force Command, Norfolk. I’m sure this plan will enhance NATO’s ability to lead operations and safeguard the Atlantic and High North.
Norway will further develop our ability to receive allies both in peacetime, for exercises, training and for operational deployments. In my view we need to continue to develop our allied posture to enhance deterrence and defence in the entire Euro-Atlantic area.
The new NATO force model will help increase the readiness of our forces, making increasing use of national forces in-place along the Russian border. When in place SACEUR will have more capable forces to deter and respond to threats in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Although, these are insecure and difficult times, NATO is acting in a steady and responsible manner. I’m certain we will come out of this crisis even stronger as an alliance.
The Nordic expansion of NATO
The Nordic expansion of NATO will enhance our deterrence and our security.
In southern Scandinavia, NATO will control the Baltic Approaches. This will reduce Russia’s ability to move forces in and out of the Baltic Sea.
With Finland and Sweden as allies, we will gain significant strategic depth in Northern Europe. NATO will also have greater flexibility to operate in the region and increased the possibilities for reinforcing both the Nordic and Baltic Allies.
However, NATO will also be taking on the responsibility for large new geographic areas.
NATO’s European land areas will increase by 16%, and as pointed out by others, NATO’s border to Russia will roughly double. This will require changes in our defence plans for the region.
Norway will still have a key role in handling the challenges in the High North. But, we will also have an increasing role as a main staging – and transit area for reinforcements to Finland and Sweden.
Finland and Sweden have been NATO ready for a long time. They have substantial armed forces that will contribute to allied security. For instance, the combined air power of the Nordic countries will become NATO’s greatest strength in the Nordic region. Together, the Nordic countries will have more than 200 modern fighter jets.
We will have to tailor our exercises to the new reality of all Nordic countries as NATO allies. We will use our experience in hosting Allied exercises in the North to help Finland and Sweden integrate into NATO defence plans and exercises.
Norway will host the exercise Nordic Response in 2024 modelled on the large bi-annual exercise Cold Response, with NATO allies and partners. This will hopefully give both allies and the Nordics useful insights into the challenges and opportunities provided by Finnish and Swedish membership.
Norway has been a member of NATO for over 70 years. Norway’s security and defence policy is based on the guarantee of support from Allied countries in the event of crisis or war.
Our policy is based on a two-pronged approach towards Russia, consisting of both deterrence and reassurance. We also make sure to show that we have defensive intentions. We have therefore strived to ensure that Allied activity in Norway and in our region is conducted in a transparent, coordinated and calibrated manner.
With Finland and Sweden in NATO, Allied territory will stretch continuously from the High North to the Baltic region.
This means events and dynamics in each region can have greater influence on each other. It will therefore be necessary to see the Nordic region as one strategic area.
Hopefully, soon all NATO nations will have ratified the Finnish and Swedish application for NATO membership, and we stand by and support both countries throughout the transition period.
We look forward to welcoming Finland and Sweden as NATO Allies. This will strengthen our collective security and enhance stability from Turkey in the South to Norway in the North and for the Alliance as a whole.
Cooperation between Norway and Germany
As I mentioned at the beginning, Norway is co-hosting today`s event with Germany. I would therefore like to address the growing cooperation between our two countries.
Norway considers Germany as a key ally.
We highly appreciate the strategic bilateral cooperation with regards to security- and defence policy. It is of mutual interest that we continue to deepen and broaden this cooperation into a strategic partnership.
Our strong common effort in NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (the VJTF) and NATOs enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Lithuania, as well as Germanys leadership in the Framework Nations Concept are most welcome. The close cooperation with both Germany and the Netherlands within the German-Dutch Corps is crucial for being able to achieve this.
German and Norwegian soldiers have been working shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan for many years, as well as during activities in Norway and in the Baltic. Germany was also a main contributor to the Trident Juncture Exercise 2018 and exercise Cold Response 2022 in Norway.
Chancellor Scholz has described a Zeitenwende, a watershed moment, and announced a policy change towards Russia. Germany has also announced massive investments in the modernization of its armed forces.
Norway and Germany are long-standing and close partners in defense cooperation. We cooperate on operations, exercises and procurement. We have recently entered into a long-term, strategic partnership on submarines and missiles, which will be valuable and beneficial to both nations for decades to come.
Germany has recently decided to invest in F-35 and P-8, which opens new possibilities for cooperation in the air domain.
Norway was pleased to sign the Letter of Intent for the European Sky Shield Initiative. We appreciate this important German initiative with the aim to strengthen NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence.
As one of the main powers in NATO and the EU, Germany plays an important role as a partner for smaller allies. Strong bilateral relationships combined with a strong NATO is essential for Norway.
To conclude, it is essential that we continue our comprehensive support to Ukraine. Both regarding equipment and training. Norway will continue our support – for as long as it takes. And as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday – we are working on new and substantial funding for the overall support of the Ukraine.
Europe must continue to show how strong we are together. Finland’s and Sweden’s entry into NATO will make us even stronger.
Norway appreciates our strong partnership with Germany, and we would like to develop and strengthen our cooperation even further to establish a true strategic partnership in the years to come.
With the Zeitenwende, Germany has signaled a renewed commitment to collective defense and a willingness to play a larger role. This is of great strategic importance to Europe and NATO.
Norway welcomes Germany enhanced role and look forward to increased German cooperation, also on the northern flank of the alliance.
I want to thank the organizers for bringing us all together at this important conference, and I look forward to the coming introductory and discussions today.
Thank you very much. Vielen Dank.