Historisk arkiv

“Threat images and NATO’s neighbourhood - a Norwegian perspective”

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Stoltenberg II

Utgiver: Forsvarsdepartementet

Forsvarsminister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen
Foredrag ved militærmaktseminaret, 6. desember 2012 

Forsvarsminister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen på Militærmaktseminaret 2012

From “out of area” to “in area”

First, I would like to thank the organisers for the invitation to open this traditional seminar. Today’s theme is very relevant indeed.

A NATO member state bordering an armed internal conflict, has recently called for allied support. The security needs of Turkey, brings NATOs neighbourhood policy to our attention. It illustrates how the Alliance works. The security concern of one Ally is the concern of all. This is allied solidarity in practice.  

And it is part of the complex security outlook NATO is facing and which I am going to talk about this morning. 

You will recall that since the early 1990s, the Alliance has been devoted to international crisis management. From 2003 this has become an almost all absorbing strategic assignment. The question is, at what cost?

In my opinion, it has affected NATO in a fundamental way. As “In area” for many years has been replaced by “out of area”, the capability for collective defence of NATOs core area has gradually crumbled away.  With  the ISAF mission is coming to an end this needs to be corrected.

I am pleased to say that this issue is now being revisited, not least due to Norwegian arguments over several years. A process is underway to re-establish regional competence and responsibilities at NATO commands. Furthermore, we are reviving defence planning for the NATO area.

I believe there are three objective reasons that underpin this work. Firstly, we are observing new trends in our security environment. We see a return of geopolitics and the return of more classical symmetric challenges. Secondly, with the increased attention to challenges at home, including in NATOs neighbourhood, it is important to ensure continued public support for the Alliance in member countries. And finally, there is a growing awareness in many nations that the logic of defence planning must have NATOs core area as its point of departure.

Our transformed National Armed Forces is primarily built and organised for the defence of Norway. Additionally, they are dedicated to the collective defence of NATO member states. The capabilities of our forces is however well suited for operations abroad. Hence, we will continue to take our responsibility in promoting international peace and security.

We will do this in a world that is rapidly changing. Allow me therefore to say a few words on our strategic environment.

The Strategic Environment

In the new world order that emerge, we must recognize that the position for Europe has been significantly changed. We have over the past few years seen how emerging economic great powers, such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia have altered the global balance of power. We also see a revitalized and self-confident Russia.

This is a world in which the traditional political and economic dominance of the West is in decline. The United States will for many years continue to be the world’s only true military superpower. But the lead is diminishing. This is something the US political leaders clearly recognize and has begun to adapt to.

We see a world in which China emerges as a potential new superpower. Accordingly, we are witnessing a markedly new phase in US policy towards China. The US new defence strategy confirms that their focus will turn to Asia and the Pacific region. In this situation, relations between the US and China will be of crucial importance to the future international climate.

In my view, the reduction of US static military presence in Europe is quite logical given the prevailing development. However, this does not have to entail a weakening of the transatlantic cooperation. Current plans suggest that permanent bases are substituted by a more dynamic presence. Such presence will most likely include more frequent and large-scale exercises, prepositioning of equipment, increased intelligence sharing and situational awareness. This actually fits well with the recent re-emergence of a focus on NATOs Article 5-commitments that we have been promoting.

The prevailing economic crisis in Europe is also part of this changing strategic environment. It is without doubt the greatest challenge facing NATO today. We need to prepare ourselves to be in this dire situation for the long haul. The crisis in Europe has over time developed into a crisis of emerging social distress and mistrust in governments and financial institutions. This defies our very idea of Europe and its international role.

The crisis affects most EU- and NATO-member states, not least their defence budgets. These are often seen as easy targets when cuts are made. Any negative effects of a reduction in defence spending are widely perceived as something abstract in nature that might be felt only in the longer term. It hurts much more for governments to cut spending in critical societal areas close to everyone’s hearts, like health, education and infrastructure. This is the logic of politics and it is hard to disagree.   

The situation becomes even more critical, knowing that cuts are made just at a time when the need for further military transformation is coming to the fore.

In several countries it has been impossible to reach the broad political consensus which has been the basis for our own restructuring process. This is regrettable as such times of austerity provide a good opportunity to take the necessary steps.

As Minister of Defence and responsible for the current long term plan, I know the tremendous efforts required. It takes time for the benefits of a restructuring process to become evident. The process is long term and painful. I am satisfied that we have been able to take tough, but necessary decisions for our national defence sector in favourable economic times. After more than ten years of hard work, we find ourselves in a situation in which we can make choices out of wisdom and not out of necessity.  

Many of my allied colleges are not so fortunate. It is of great concern that many European countries are being forced to cut entire elements from their defence structures. There is no doubt that cuts especially made at the high end of capabilities will critically affect NATO over time. We must, therefore, make sure that cuts are made in a way that takes account of our collective security requirements. If not, this will represent a serious challenge in the context of burden sharing and in maintaining the transatlantic ties.

Unfortunately, there are signs to the contrary. Allies, in dire economic straits, feels compelled to cut quickly and in many cases, unilaterally. We also see that common funded or multilateral projects come under pressure. The total defence expenditure in NATO is certain to drop further in the short term.

Obviously, we cannot simply continue business as usual. The Chicago Summit earlier this year launched Smart Defence and the Connected Forces initiative as a response to reduced budgets and reduced operational cooperation in Afghanistan. In such times of austerity, multinational solutions are the apparent answer, both in relation to capabilities and training.

Norway will continue to argue in favour of these efforts, both within the Alliance and elsewhere. Even if the bulk of our multinational cooperation happens in the framework of NATO, the Nordic Defence Cooperation has grown steadily stronger and more substantial.

We will use the best options available to close our own capability gaps, as well as those of the Alliance. The way forward in this regard is through pooling and sharing of mission critical capabilities and their support systems, both between Allies and with close partners like Sweden and Finland.

At the core of these efforts, is the need to refurbish and reorient the Alliance. I believe young people today have an idea of NATO that is very remote from its origins in 1949. And yes, the world has definitely changed in a dramatic way, but NATO has adapted accordingly.

We must recognise the importance of the Alliance’s operational engagements. We should absolutely continue to use NATO when the UN and the global community request it. But the pendulum has swung too far. We have to find a sustainable balance.

In adapting and modernising we must avoid compromising with the unique and timeless qualities of NATO. In particular we must stand up for the principle of and commitment to collective defence.  Unfortunately, Article 5 has come under pressure. It is not in such good shape as people might think.

This is due to the confluence of two different trends; reduced military capability for deterrence, particularly on the conventional side, and the high operational tempo in international operations. We therefore need to re-establish a firm belief in Article 5 and our collective capabilities.

Over the past two decades we broadened our view about what security entails. The intra-state conflicts of the 1990s taught us to think otherwise. So did   “9/11”. It taught us that non-traditional and asymmetrical challenges can be very real and very much a part of the broader security environment. Not least, the 22. July disaster here at home made that terribly clear to us in 2011.

Many of those challenges are still with us. The increasing pace of globalisation and its consequences, ranging from terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to cyber-threats and organised crime, are still highly relevant. The world is becoming more and more interconnected, for good and bad.

So are the lingering conflicts, particularly in the Middle East. The Arab Spring brought new hope to people longing for more democracy and justice. However, several of those countries are struggling to maintain the momentum born last spring.

We now know that the wave of democratic rallies also opened up the appalling Janus face of civil war and hostilities against civilians. Watching the disastrous situation in Syria with great concern, the international community must never give up searching for solutions. Even though both the UN and regional organisations can be paralysed by political strife, the international community must never turn its back on the humanitarian consequences of armed conflict.

The Middle East region has been plagued by conflict for decades and it could become worse. The dispute over Iran’s nuclear program remains unresolved. The same goes for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which flare up at irregular intervals. The civil war in Syria, as in Libya, has brought conflict directly to NATOs neighbourhood. It is surely in our interest to prevent further escalation in this vulnerable region.

What are todays’ threat images and challenges?

So what are todays’ threat images and challenges? The short answer is the growing diversity and unpredictability of the global security environment. Indeed our current security outlook is muddled and sometimes difficult to grasp.

Part of this complex security environment is the inherent irrationality and unpredictable nature of non-state actors and terrorist networks. We are also faced by threats of cyber-attack, long distance weapon systems and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Our challenges are multiple and not confined by national borders.  

The return of geopolitics does imply that we cannot simply assume that all future conflicts we might be involved in will be against non-state actors. Conflict between states may again surface. In a more multi-polar world, strong and credible international institutions are therefore of great importance for peace and security. Shared norms and regimes already exist. These may help to soften this global systemic change.

Future trends also include the likelihood of "strategic shocks". Unexpected events may be caused by nature or by man. Sudden outbreak of war, acts of terrorism, nuclear accidents, breakdown of financial systems, pandemics. The list is not exhaustive. Some of the threats we face today, may pose challenges to our traditional way of thinking about the world as a function of the interests of states.

In such an environment, enhanced cooperation with Allies and partners is a prerequisite, also in achieving cost effective solutions. This brings me to last part of my intervention. How do we frame our security and defence policy in such an environment?  

How do we face new threats and challenges?  


This summer the Norwegian Parliament passed a new Long Term White Paper for the Norwegian Defence Sector. This white paper provides the overall structure and framework for the future Norwegian Armed Forces. I will highlight a few central initiatives.

First of all, the white paper confirms the decision to procure the F-35 as our future combat aircraft. This is the best aircraft at the best possible price to safeguard our interest today and coming generations. We expect the F-35 to be an equally successful weapon system for the future as the F-16 has been for more than thirty years.


This will be a technological giant leap. As a multi-role aircraft, it is capable of managing the full range of potential air missions that we foresee. For the Norwegian Air Force, a new base structure will ensure that we continue to operate efficiently and effectively.

Second, the white paper advances the Army further towards a highly modern, efficient tool, capable of resolving both national and international missions. With new artillery systems, infantry fighting vehicles, soldier systems, and improved communications and intelligence capabilities, we will ensure that the transformation and modernisation process continues.

Third, the white paper focuses on emerging security challenges. The most prominent among them is cyber security. The cyber domain has become an integrated and inseparable part of everyday life. But at the same time, it represents an "Achilles heel" at all levels of society, as cyber threats challenge both governments and businesses. In order to strengthen our defences, and to better understand the cyber threats, the Armed Forces have established a Cyber command. This initiative represents an historic step forward and underlines the importance given to encountering this threat.

Finally, our primary mission is at home. Focusing on the High North, protecting our rights and interests in our own neighbourhood is priority number one. That is also the main rationale for our defence transformation and our capability development.

It is also in the cards that our defence capabilities will play a greater role in civilian crisis management than before, particularly in support of the police. In the aftermath of “22nd July”, the entirety of the nation’s emergency preparedness is being evaluated.  The defence sector stands ready to uphold its commitments in support of the civilian sector.


In a more complex security environment, global challenges will require increasingly common action and global solutions. This will involve continuous attention and effort from global and regional international organisations, as well as from individual nations.

Norway will continue to take an active role in the promotion of international peace and stability. We stand ready to contribute with relevant military capabilities within the framework of UN, NATO and the EU.

And we have forces prepared to do this without delay. The decision and deployment to participate in the military operation in Libya truly exemplifies the success of our transformation.

Our defence capabilities are flexible. They are trained at conducting different types of missions in various environments. And they are interoperable with those of our Allies. Our national defence force is small in numbers, but high in quality. This has been proven frequently in recent years, both in Afghanistan, in Chad, in Libya and outside the Horn of Africa.

As we now redeploy from Afghanistan, we must strengthen the Alliance. We must make it skilled at handling a wide array of future security challenges. Of course, we must adopt the lessons learned from the ISAF mission. But these lessons should be used to prepare ourselves for future missions, not the ones’ of the past.

We will probably not know the exact nature of the specific threats and challenges we might face. Thinking ahead, analysing global trends and developing new concepts remains key to the future success for NATO.

In these demanding times for Europe, we must not allow today’s economic crisis to become tomorrow’s security crisis. Nations should realise that collective security is at stake. Hence we must tread the difficult path together. The question to be asked is how a leaner NATO and a relatively weaker Europe is able to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

We have been among the nations strongly advocating that countries cutting their defence budgets should seek to coordinate reductions through NATO. We must ensure that the economic crisis does not lead to the re-nationalisation of defence and security policies. From history we now that this has been a path leading to a fragmented Europe.

This is why I consider the Defence package to be the single most important initiative coming out of the Chicago Summit. It brings to the forefront the basic values and principles of the Strategic Concept: Indivisibility of security, Alliance solidarity, burden sharing and the importance of the transatlantic link.

To remedy the situation and prepare for a post-Afghanistan era, I strongly believe in more frequent exercises to rehearse the response to threats at home, and improve the ability to receive reinforcements. Article 5 is not a button you can press when the crisis appear. It has to be exercised and maintained. It requires competence, preparations and a common will to act.   

We are probably entering a period with lower operational tempo. Therefore, the NATO Response Force must be put to the fore as the prime vehicle for interoperability and transformation. It must be trained in contending a range of possible scenarios, “in area” as well as “out of area”.

We all know that common solutions and multinational defence cooperation has been at the heart of NATO for decades. This strengthens ties between member states and provides key capabilities that most nations otherwise could not afford. NATOs Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, the Strategic Airlift Capability and the NATO Air-Ground Surveillance capability, are all happening in this very spirit.   

And fortunately, things are moving forward despite all the challenges I have just described. It was with satisfaction that I signed a letter of intent last month, together with seven other EU- and NATO-countries, to establish a common pool of transport- and tanker aircraft. This project will be managed by the European Defence Agency and provide the participating nations with a much needed capability to support air operations, in particular by strategic air-to-air refuelling.

Raising NATOs profile “in area”

My main message today is that NATOs role as a strong and relevant international political-military organisation must be safeguarded. Raising NATO’s profile on Alliance territory and in its periphery is an important element of this ambition, and a contribution to strengthen the transatlantic partnership.

Todays’ threat images and security challenges are characterised by growing diversity and unpredictability. The threats from failed states, and the inherent irrationality and unpredictability of non-state actors and terrorists, exist side by side with traditional security threats.

There is no military threat against Norway today. We are fortunate to live in a region characterised by stability and cooperation among neighbours. But there are no guarantees for the future. Maintaining a credible and capability based defence is therefore a lasting priority for this government.

Thank you for your attention.