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"The US is our most important ally"

Washington, D.C.: Ine Eriksen Søreide today begins her first visit to the United States in her new role as Minister of Defence. She will be in Washington, D.C., and New York in the days ahead, and has scheduled an extensive programme with US authorities and decision-makers. “The United States is our most important ally. Our good security and defence relationship with the United States must not be taken for granted. I would like to develop our cooperation further,” says the defence minister.

 

Key security guarantor

“We face a range of ever-increasing and complex security policy challenges. In a changing security policy terrain, the transatlantic partnership is an important stabilising factor and guarantee for mutual security. The Government attaches great importance to our good bilateral relationship with the United States, a cornerstone of which is close cooperation on defence and security policy in particular,” says the defence minister.

“It is important that the United States continues to play a leadership role internationally. But the difficult economic situation in the United States means that it, too, must now make cuts in defence spending. More will be expected of Europe,” says Eriksen Søreide.

“This is a challenge,” she adds, “given that the economic situation in Europe is also difficult.”

Cooperation and initiative important

Several European NATO countries have had to make cuts in defence spending and new investments. “This heightens the challenges we face in terms of burden-sharing. This is a challenge also for Norway. We must continue to invest in our Armed Forces. Norway's security is still dependent on a strong and relevant NATO. It is important to make sure NATO remains the basis for US security and defence policy engagement in Europe. We will contribute to that,” Eriksen Søreide emphasises. “We will take an active role in NATO and help the alliance transition to the period after Afghanistan.”

This will require, among other things, more exercises and training to maintain interactivity between allies and key partners, so that NATO can continue to perform its missions. There is nothing to suggest the alliance will have more money in the near future. “We must therefore be more creative in our resource use and find new ways to collaborate. It is also important for Europe to show a clear willingness to relieve the United States. We will talk to the Americans about increased training and exercise activity in Europe, and follow up on signals from the United States that this is being planned. Norway can offer attractive training and exercise opportunities on Norwegian soil, as we will emphasise in talks with US officials through the week,” says Eriksen Søreide.

“We will also signal that an important measure for NATO allies is to become involved in the areas where the United States has security interests. Hopefully, this will help strengthen NATO’s relevance in Washington at a time when US involvement in other parts of the world is contributing to global stability,” says the defence minister.

“Norway’s participation – with a Nansen-class frigate – in the large Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in the Pacific Ocean in 2014 is an example of such engagement. This sends an important political signal that the US contribution to Europe is not the only aspect of a collective defence. Europe is not only a net importer of security, but must also be an exporter,” says Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

One Wednesday, 8 January, the defence minister has meetings with, among others, the Atlantic Council, members of the US Congress and representatives of several think tanks. On Thursday, 9 January, she will meet the head of the American F-35 fighter programme and give a speech at CSIS, among other activities. On Friday, 10 January, she is to meet Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and take part in meetings at the UN.

 

Press contact for Norway’s Minister of Defence during the visit:

Ann Kristin Salbuvik, tel. +47 90669356, email  

On-duty press contact at the Ministry of Defence, tel. +47 23096011

 

 

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