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Sovereignty, stability and cooperation – Norwegian security policy in a time of change

Rector, members of the Advisory Committee on Security Policy, students and staff, (ladies and gentlemen),


Looking back at Norway’s history over the last 200 years or so, you could say that Norwegian security policy has largely been forged in the spring/early summer, in response to the major events that took place at that time of year, for example those of 9 April, 8 May, 17 May and 7 June.

These dates represent pivotal moments in our history: the signing of our Constitution, independence, occupation, liberation, freedom.

You, at the University of Oslo are no strangers to this history. You understand the meaning of freedom and you know what it means to be 200 years old. Thank you for continuing your tradition of stimulating debate, and thank you for allowing me to speak here today.

On yet another spring day, 10 May this year, Gunnar Sønsteby died, at the age of 94. He was a true hero both in times of war and in times of peace. As soldier and secret agent, he was known for his ability to stay in the shadows. But in the last 50 years of his life, he frequently stepped into the limelight and shared his experiences in a long line of lectures, talks, and visits to schools and various associations. Secret agent no 24 (Kjakan) helped to bring defence and security policy into the public sphere.

Fifty-one years ago, in May 1961, NATO was about to hold its ministerial meeting in Norway for the first time. The Cold War was at its height, there was unrest in Europe, and in Norway too. On 8 May, some 20 000 people gathered for a public meeting in front of the City Hall. Gunnar Sønsteby, then aged 43, was asked to speak to these youngsters, as they were referred to at the time. His speech was later sent out to school children throughout Norway. Its message was one he returned to on countless occasions:

“We must (...) differentiate between the fundamental things that we stand together on and other things that we can disagree about in a free country. Our freedom, and our determination to defend that freedom, is one of those fundamental things.”

It is this “fundamental thing” – our freedom – that Norwegian security policy is all about; it is this that it is striving to preserve.

The concept of “freedom” does not change from one age to the next. But the world around us is changing. Every discipline at this university is well aware of that. Security policy too must pass the test all policy has to undergo: it must demonstrate the ability to adapt to its time, to continue to deliver in changing circumstances.

And this is the topic of my speech and for our debate today: How can we develop our security policy in the context of a world that is changing?




In international politics, many different words and phrases are used to describe today’s global reality. We hear, for example, about a “bipolar”, “multipolar” or “zero-polar” world, a “post-American” or “post-European” world; and we read about the “Asian century”, the “information society” and the “risk society”.

The title of my speech today refers to a “time of change” – an unsettling period of transition where power is shifting, new actors are emerging, new states are moving up the league table, others are moving down, new patterns are taking shape.

Our time, our world today is characterised by complexity and change.

But that doesn’t mean that everything is in a state of flux. There are many aspects of Norwegian security policy that remain constant. And although we are facing a range of new challenges at global level – from failed states, terrorism and so-called asymmetric conflicts, to various other threats – many of the old, classic challenges and issues still remain.

For example – and this is one of the main points I want to make today – for Norway, the territorial dimension remains an essential component of security policy. Geography is a fundamental factor.

Countries cannot choose their geography or their neighbours. A great deal of security policy is determined by geography: the resources available, natural boundaries, dividing lines and connections between people.

For Norway today, geography is gaining new significance in terms of security policy, not least because the High North – long considered to be on the periphery – is now becoming a new centre. Not in the way it was in the days of the Cold War, but as an arena for new drivers of change: climate change, new sailing routes, access to resources, increasing international interest. Our relations with our neighbour Russia continue to be an important part of this picture.

Against this backdrop – where change is taking place rapidly – the development of robust and effective security policy is dependent on open and critical debate and a willingness to search for and test out new ideas. Critical debate is not just a democratic principle. For me, it is an essential tool for forging foreign policy.

In recent years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sought to stimulate debate, for example through the Refleks project. This was designed to challenge and test our foreign policy reflexes and foster innovative approaches by encouraging a more dynamic, public exchange of ideas. Today, the Advisory Committee on Security Policy is playing a similar role by fostering debate, for example at universities and university colleges.




I would like to reflect on three main questions today:

Firstly: What does it mean for us that we are living in a time of change? What are the most significant changes taking place around us right now? What is the “diagnosis”?

Secondly, and leading on from this: Which of the security policy challenges that we see around us are the most important? What do we need to focus on?

Thirdly, and this is the vital political question: How should Norway – as a state and as a society – respond to the challenges we are facing?





My first point – the broader picture: What kind of change are we talking about here?

Haven’t most of those who have held positions of power in recent history felt that they were standing at a crossroads, living in a time of change? Think of 1814, 1939, 1949, 1961/62, 1968, 1989, 2001 ... The list is long.

In the afternoon of 10 April 1940, the then Norwegian Foreign Minister, Halvdan Koht, who happened to be in Elverum at the time, received a message from Nybergsund in Trysil. It was from King Haakon VII and the rest of the Government, who had gathered there. The message was a clear “no” to the German occupation force in Oslo and a “yes” to Norway joining the other side in the Second World War.

Today we take the King’s “no” of April 1940 more or less for granted. Indeed, he became known as the “king who said no”. But the reality was not that simple.

Tor Bomann-Larsen describes this dramatic period for Norwegian foreign policy in the fifth volume of his biography of King Haakon and Queen Maud, Æresordet. He gives us a picture of Norway in the days, months and the few years prior to the outbreak of war, a time when there was significant disagreement between the various players in Norwegian society. For a long time, many – including Koht – were uncertain how to interpret developments. There was considerable scepticism towards England, and attitudes to Germany were also ambivalent.

This uncertainty gave rise to nebulous conclusions and a failure to implement sufficient measures to counter a growing threat. Seen in this light, King Haakon’s “no” indicates a razor-sharp understanding of the world Norway suddenly found itself in, and of the path Norway had to take.

Norway had been neutral since 1905. There were many who wanted it to remain so. Some sought a compromise with Germany that would keep Norway out of the war, but this option soon faded away.

The King saw things clearly, in terms of both principle and security policy.

April 1940 was a time of intense change in Norwegian security policy, and that afternoon of 10 April was perhaps the pivotal moment. It’s a fascinating thought. Geopolitical forces across the world were at play. Norway abandoned one security policy position – neutrality – a position we had maintained since 1905, and took the first steps towards the line we follow today, the line we have followed since NATO was established in 1949: our alliance policy and our unwavering commitment to our transatlantic ties, which are perhaps closer today than they have ever been.

There have been major changes and many pivotal moments since then: peace in 1945, the establishment of the UN in 1946, decolonisation, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps one day, we will include the current sovereign debt crisis in Europe in this list.

In any case, the fact remains that Norway is committed to the transatlantic alliance – now with even stronger links to Europe, particularly to the other Nordic countries, than before. This applies both to matters of principle and to security policy.

In terms of security policy, 2012 is a very different time of change. There is less focus on military force and the disarmament and rearmament of major powers – typically the core elements of security policy in the past.

But these “old issues” are still relevant. The fact that leading countries are giving greater emphasis to military force as a tool for promoting their national interests inevitably affects our position. We cannot fail to take note of this.

But we must also take a broader perspective, for the time of change we are currently living in has an additional dimension; Norway must adapt to the impacts of extensive, global economic, technological and environmental change. Not so much threats in the traditional sense of the word, but rather a question of how to manage a wide range of risk factors and challenges.

The shifts in today’s security policy landscape are being driven not only by military and geopolitical factors but also by the changes taking place in our society, changes that relate to some of the enduring themes of human history: freedom versus bondage; freedom versus oppression; development versus poverty; the integrity of individuals and the security of states.

I would like to highlight three far-reaching changes:


Firstly, what I call “the interwoven global society”.

Nearly 30 years ago, one of my predecessors, Knut Frydenlund, wrote about what he called “internationalisation”: “Ever since the Second World War, we have seen (...) a development that has bound individual countries and people closer together and made them increasingly dependent on one another”.

In 2012, this trend has developed much, much further. Indeed its very nature has changed. We are no longer just talking about societies becoming interdependent; societies have become interwoven. This is apparent in the fields of economics and finance, culture, communications and, of course, climate change. In this respect, borders are losing their significance.

Social change “far away” is really just around the corner.

Shifts in economic power and the economic crisis are key factors in determining the balance of power between the US and Asia.

The conflicts in the Middle East and the Arab Spring are reducing access to resources in this region and thus increasing the strategic importance and value of Norwegian oil and gas deposits.

Advances in technology can also have implications for the kind of threats we face. Just as the splitting of the atom in a US laboratory in the 1940s came to define security policy all over the post-war world, so too the development of digital technology – in California and India – has brought with it a new form of vulnerability and the threat of cyberwarfare. A new dimension.

Similarly, there are direct links between globalisation and climate change, which in turn is affecting the geography of our neighbouring areas. Increased economic growth and increased use of fossil fuels are speeding up the rate at which the ice is melting. This will have significance for Norway in terms of its geostrategic position, as well as for shipping routes in the High North. And hence for Norwegian interests and Norwegian security policy.

A flu virus in Latin America can reach Europe in a matter of days. The outbreak of SARS in Asia led to the closure of not only the airport in Hong Kong, but also the airport in Toronto.


The second major change is the “turn towards the East” – towards China and India. But we are also seeing a shift in economic power and influence, as well as in political and cultural power, towards the South – to countries such as Brazil and Indonesia and certain African countries.

From a historical perspective, this is not a new development. The development we have seen in Asia has taken place over a long period of time. Nor is Asia’s role a new one. It is historically incorrect to call China a newcomer to the global political elite. It is more accurate to talk about China returning to the world stage after a few centuries of introspection. We should not forget the position China had in the 16th and 17th centuries, for example.

At the same time, what is happening today is extraordinary, even from a historical perspective. Because it is happening so fast. Because deeply ingrained ideas of how the world hangs together are being rigorously challenged. China and other emerging economies in Asia and Latin America are shifting the centre of gravity from the Atlantic Ocean eastwards to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

The American researcher and author Robert Kaplan describes in his book Monsoon how the balance of power between the oceans is shifting. He believes that access to seas will be a key aspect of security policy in the future. The Indian Ocean could become the centre of world shipping in the future, he writes. We can see a similar development in the Arctic Ocean, where the Northeast Passage is opening up, and Norway may have a “new”, ice-free sea area on its doorstep.

So far, growth in Asia has taken the form of transferred production, financial muscle and economic power, but this phenomenon goes far deeper. India, China and other countries will be, or are already well on the way to becoming, centres of knowledge, advanced technology, innovation and optimism, driven as they are by millions of young people who are yearning for a better life that they can see is within their reach.

It is nothing new for Western countries to be in a minority on the world stage. That doesn’t mean that our values are in a minority; new, emerging states may well share our views on democracy and universal human rights, for these values are just that – universal, not the preserve of the West. But the fact that non-Western countries are becoming economic and technological leaders is historic. It marks a turning point.

However, China and India are facing the prospect of serious growth problems as well as growing pains. The current pace of growth in China cannot be expected to continue. This will not only affect the economy, but will also create political challenges. How, for example, will the political system manage the diversity and human creativity that a powerful market economy is producing? How can a single-party state deal with internal tensions, ensure respect for human rights and fight corruption? These are significant challenges.

My point is that we must expect today’s trend of relative shifts in power to continue. Not in a straight line, but nevertheless to continue.

We know from experience that states tend to use increasing economic and technological power to gain political influence. China is already becoming a major power in Africa. And it is making its presence felt in other continents and in other seas – including our neighbouring area, the Arctic. New voices are being heard in international forums. There are new configurations to relate to.

In military terms, the unipolar era is not over. We are not seeing a similar shift in the balance of global military power. Nor are the US’s planned defence cuts, reforms or reorganisation of its permanent military presence undermining its military dominance. But the rearmament of states like China could alter the balance of power at regional level and create unpredictability and uncertainty. We are already seeing signs of this in East Asia and the South China Sea.

And the use of military power does not always have the desired political effect. The invasion of Iraq is one story; the military presence in Afghanistan another.

We need to respond to the challenges – and opportunities – that Asia represents. We must ensure that we have the knowledge of Asia and the networks that we need. We must define our security policy interests and identify what room for manoeuvre we have. We are making good progress here. We are intensifying our political dialogue with key countries in the East, such as Indonesia, which is now a high priority in Norwegian foreign policy.  

At the same time, we are facing serious challenges in Europe, where countries are struggling economically and finding it difficult to contribute sufficiently to NATO’s defence capacity. And right now, just before the next NATO summit, it is the threat to government finances that is the greatest single security challenge for certain European countries.


The third far-reaching change, after the interwoven global society and the turn towards the east, and one that is particularly relevant in the security policy landscape around Norway, is what I call the High North – the new north, the new geopolitics in the north.

The backdrop is this: regardless of how successful we are in the next round of global climate diplomacy and the development of climate technology, climate change will have long-term implications for Norway’s security policy. We must acknowledge this fact.

The geography around Norway is changing. During this century, large stretches of the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free for all or parts of the year. The map is changing, creating new shipping routes and access to new resources that are in great demand – all in all a combination of factors that previously in history have proved to be of vital importance.

Close to the Norwegian coastline, a new gigantic area for shipping, exploitation of resources and other activities is opening up – right on our doorstep – bringing new political, economic, energy policy and environmental challenges in its wake.

Again, we see the prime importance of geography for security policy. We see issues of major national interest, and we see why the Government has defined the High North as the top strategic priority in Norwegian foreign and security policy since it came to power in 2005.

When I meet my colleagues from other countries, I note their increasing interest in the High North. The pendulum is swinging northwards.

I often take a map with me to talks and seminars to illustrate what many see as a new continent, an area that even my European colleagues are unfamiliar with. I am reminded here of the European weather map that I became familiar with during my student days in Paris. It was cut off just above Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki, as though there wasn’t anything further north. But since then, many of my colleagues have been to the High North as our guests – to Tromsø, Kirkenes, Hammerfest, to Svalbard.

The Arctic and the High North are more often on the radar now. Politicians and observers are looking to the north.

This is also making Norway’s strategic horizon clearer. Today, Kirkenes and Hammerfest are no longer on the periphery of the main international shipping routes; they are the very gateway to a major transport route to and from the Barents Sea and between Asia and Europe. What was a European outpost is becoming a new centre.

It is crucial that Norway is aware of this. We have defined knowledge as being at the core of our High North policy. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake. But also in order to take action, to make good decisions – on business policy, infrastructure policy, energy policy, neighbourhood policy, indeed on every aspect of modern security policy.





So, to recap, three major processes of change: the interwoven global society, a shift in focus towards the East and – at the same time – new developments in the High North. All three are pivotal changes of our time. And they have repercussions.

What are the security policy consequences? Let me start with four brief reflections.

Firstly, the concept of security has become broader than ever before.

Today, we must take as our starting point the concept of comprehensive security that encompasses territorial, economic, social, political and environmental security. The comprehensive security concept reflects the complexity of the present security policy picture. We can’t ignore any part of this picture. A broad set of tools is needed. We have been thinking along these lines for many years, and now this approach is gradually taking hold..

This ties in with the concept of “smart power” – where a state utilises all its advantages and the tools at its disposal to realise its goals. My colleague Hillary Clinton likes to speak of the three Ds: diplomacy, development and defence. And that these are all interconnected.


Secondly, these changes are bringing new and more actors to the fore.

The main security policy actors are still states, and the framework is still the state system. However, non-state actors are increasingly gaining influence and power at both regional and international level. Civil society is one example.

This is positive in that it demonstrates that democracy is working as it should and is engaging a broader section of society. But there are less positive aspects too: new serious security threats such as terrorism, cyber-attacks, and international crime related to drugs, weapons, piracy, human trafficking and prostitution, all of which are largely the domain of non-state actors.

When such forces are given a freer rein, they can threaten states, sometimes with fatal consequences. They are difficult to fight with conventional means. And these threats can rarely be countered by the armed forces alone.


Thirdly, Norwegian security requires sufficient crisis management capacity at the global level. This is conceptually challenging. 

The security of Norwegian society – and hence its vulnerability – is closely linked to developments in societies far away. Indeed the expression “far away” has lost some of its meaning. Our interests are interlinked with the interests of others. And security policy is increasingly related to domestic policy in other countries – including countries that are “far away”.

Key words in this context are: global health, health epidemics, migration, human trafficking, drugs trafficking, conflicts within states and failed states.  

Bear in mind that nine out of ten armed conflicts today are within states not between states.

This development means that it is no longer meaningful to speak of rich countries on the one side and poor countries on the other. We are increasingly seeing a divide between rich and poor within the same country. This doesn’t make the fight against poverty any easier.

Recognition of these facts is vital if we are to pursue a foreign policy that is relevant for our times. In our white paper on the main features of Norwegian foreign policy,[1] we refer to “a risk of insecurity caused by external instability”. Events that at first sight may seem quite outside the security policy sphere, or “far away” in geographical terms, can – to a far greater extent than before – have direct consequences for Norwegian or regional security.

And fourthly, as I have already mentioned – and this is an important reminder in a world that is often described as globalised – the “territorial factor” in Norwegian security policy has not become any less important; on the contrary it has become more important

Some people need to be reminded of this. Although we talk of a broad security concept, Norway is still a country with real security policy needs relating to its territory, in contrast to many other European countries.

A small European state to the west of the continent could summarise its situation in the following way: we have enjoyed lasting peace with the European major powers, the Soviet Union has collapsed, the Cold War is over; therefore there is no traditional security threat to our territory.

But our geographical situation is different. We don’t perceive any military threat to Norway. But Norway is a maritime nation, in a strategically important area for many countries, even countries that are far away in geographical terms. Moreover our relationship with Russia remains – from a political science perspective – asymmetrical.





Against this backdrop, how should Norway meet the developments that are arising from this complex security policy picture in 2012? What are our anchor points? What are our tools?

First, I would like to remind you – and this is something I often repeat – that Norway is a successful nation in both economic and political terms in a world where there is a deficit in both respects. That is a fact.

This entails a duty to become engaged in global developments, to shoulder responsibility, and act with humility. This also has security policy implications. We have resources, and we have a responsibility to fight poverty, promote effective climate change mitigation and adaptation, and strengthen and build confidence in the UN’s efforts – not only in our neighbouring region but also globally. And we have a responsibility to help Europe to survive the current crisis without suffering permanent damage.

Second, although security depends on global factors, it is vital that we maintain a strong focus on security issues at home – in our neighbouring areas.

We must face the fact that we have real security needs relating to our land territory, our territorial sea and the sea areas beyond. We need to protect our sovereign rights and jurisdiction. Norway is a maritime nation, with sea areas and a continental shelf that are six times larger than its land territory. This entails both opportunities and responsibilities.

Protecting Norway’s security and sovereignty is our top priority. Ultimately, most of what we do comes down to this, even when we are engaged far from Norway’s shores.

Norway’s waters border the Arctic Ocean, which is of growing interest to actors from both within and outside the region. Our sea areas contain valuable, strategic resources. We are responsible for the environment, for search and rescue, and for maintaining general order in these areas. It is therefore essential that we have a modern navy and air force that can patrol these seas.

Russia is a state that likes to have a high profile and to be respected as a major power. Norway is still a close neighbour to a strategic military base, just over the border in the north.

All this means that we can only pursue an integrated, responsible policy if our own house is in order, and we must bear in mind that we are not alone. We need knowledge, defence, allies and partners.

Some 20–30 years ago, when I did my military service, Norway had to be ready to meet a serious military threat. Today, we are not talking about a single military threat. We are, as I have already pointed out, facing a range of risk factors relating to resource management, climate change, the environment, maritime transport, migration, transnational crime, various types of accident and search and rescue.

Maintaining a presence, holding regular military exercises and ensuring sufficient capacity are all crucial for addressing this complex risk picture. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty sets out the principle of collective self-defence: that an armed attack against a NATO Ally shall be considered an attack against them all. This is the cornerstone of NATO, and this principle is still at the heart of Norwegian security policy.

It is also necessary to maintain a modern, well-balanced and credible national defence, not targeted against a particular threat, but designed to ensure Norway’s security. The Government has systematically and effectively supported the reform of the Armed Forces and invested in new capacity. The Norwegian defence budget is, and will continue to be, robust.     

The new long-term plan for the Armed Forces reflects the importance of the reform. Strengthening capacity with a view to preventing war and conflict is a main priority. This entails further developing the Armed Forces’ overall capacity – both at national level and in the context of the NATO cooperation.

The main task of the Armed Forces – as it always has been – is to ensure our security, to be our “firewall”. And our ability to withstand traditional symmetric threats is an important element. Yes, we must keep our eyes open for new security challenges, but we cannot ignore other challenges. We must address both.

If NATO is to have a credible reinforcement role in our neighbouring areas, we ourselves must play an active part in the defence of our areas and in safeguarding our interests. This is taken into account in the long-term plan, which has provided important input for both our foreign policy and our security policy.

Meanwhile, developments in the High North highlight Norway’s role not just as a maritime nation, but also as an Arctic nation, and our policy must help to ensure security and stability in an area that is attracting increasing international attention.

To help us, we have a set of security policy and broader foreign policy tools. Let me briefly outline some of the most important ones:


  • The member states of the Arctic Council have developed close political and practical cooperation, for example in the area of search and rescue (and a key issue in this context is oil pollution). We have strengthened bilateral and international cooperation in the High North; a framework is being established. And, interestingly, the Arctic Council, once a little-known organisation, is now having to deal with the interest being shown by several other countries that would like to join.  
  • We have reached agreement on the role of the Law of the Sea in the Arctic. The Ilulissat Declaration, made by the five coastal states bordering the Arctic Ocean  – Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Russia, the US and Norway – in 2008 in Ilulissat, Greenland establishes that the Law of the Sea provides the legal framework for activity in the Arctic Ocean, and that any disputes should be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with the Law of the Sea. 
  • Our agreement with Russia on the delimitation line is a good example in this context. It is of great practical importance for the further development of our cooperation with Russia. And at the same time, it is a key factor for maintaining predictability and stability in the High North. In other words, for security policy.
  • And we have other regional forums, such as the Barents Euro-Arctic Council – chaired by Norway until autumn 2013 – which for more than 20 years has fostered close, practical cooperation at many levels – people-to-people, regional and national.


My point is this: today the High North is a region of dialogue and cooperation, not of confrontation and military tension. Or as we like to put it “High North – Low Tension”. We can’t say the same about other parts of the world where major resources are to be found in the sea and in the seabed.

Third: the common Nordic identity, and the huge potential for cooperation this brings, particularly in our neighbouring areas, as well as from the point of view of developing a modern security policy. Here I am referring to a geographical and cultural closeness, and deep-rooted common interests. Current developments in this area are exciting.

In 2011, the Nordic foreign ministers reached agreement on a Nordic declaration of solidarity. The declaration establishes a political framework for the Nordic countries to provide assistance to one another in the event of a Nordic country being affected by a natural or man-made disaster, or a cyber or terrorist attack. It is a historic declaration.

In recent years, we have seen major progress in the Nordic cooperation on defence and security policy. The proposals set out in the Stoltenberg report on Nordic foreign and security policy cooperation were considered by many to be too extreme when the report was first launched in 2009. But we are now in the process of implementing most of them, and we can appreciate what a catalyst the report has been for cooperation between the Nordic countries.

The hisorical and institutional obstacles to cooperation arising from the fact that the Nordic countries have different international affiliations has lost its relevance. The Nordic balance of power of the Cold War days has been replaced by a new equilibrium.

The Nordic countries are now working together across different security constellations despite the fact that some are EU members, some are NATO members and some are members of both. Together we are helping NATO and the EU to supplement and reinforce one another. And the result is enhanced security.

We cooperate on joint military equipment and hold joint exercises in the Nordic region, the Barents region and under NATO. It is natural for us to collaborate on development and procurement, and the latest major procurements of military equipment in Norway, Sweden and Finland have brought us closer together. It is natural to hold joint exercises for Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish fighter jets in the High North, and here we are seeing the first signs of something resembling joint capability.

The Nordic countries cooperate in different constellations at different times. Sometimes three countries work together and sometimes five – or two or four. Together we form a security policy hub in Northern Europe – and we set an example for others.

We also visit, hold exercises with, and cooperate with our Russian neighbour. This includes increasingly frequent military cooperation, with a focus on what we all perceive as risk factors.

Fourth, the mainstay of Norway’s security policyNATO: a political and military alliance also for the 21st century.

NATO has undergone major changes in the last 20 years, but it has demonstrated its continued relevance. Article 5 on collective security is and will remain our security guarantee, and the transatlantic dimension is also crucial.

Norway’s core area initiative in NATO has helped to bring security policy back home, to our neighbouring areas. We have provided a reminder that even in a time of unprecedented global challenges, the focus of the Alliance must be here, safeguarding the security of our states and fostering a sense of security in society as a whole.

NATO’s new Strategic Concept – which was adopted at the Lisbon summit in 2010 – has reinforced this. In other words, Norway has helped to alter NATO’s course. An important item on the agenda of the Chicago summit will be just this – the future of NATO, and how the Alliance should tackle its core tasks.

More than ten years of engagement in Afghanistan have demonstrated that military force alone cannot resolve political and social problems. Now we are in a new phase: we are seeking to withdraw in an orderly and well-coordinated way as the Afghans take over more responsibility themselves.

And we must look ahead, to a time when Afghanistan is no longer NATO’s main focus. This is essential.

When I was young, NATO’s attention was focused exclusively on its own area. Any talk of “out of area” was controversial. But after 1990, the choice for NATO seemed to be between going “out of area or out of business”, as one commentator put it. Developments in Afghanistan have shown that in security terms, “far away” is not necessarily “out of area”, for the situation there also posed a threat to the rest of the world.

A “new generation in Afghanistan” is in the making, people who know the country and have exercised and trained with allies and partners in ISAF.

But now it’s important that NATO demonstrates its relevance in its core area, that our armed forces are well trained in their core tasks, and that future generations feel that NATO is relevant for their security.

It is the transatlantic community – the solidarity of our Alliance – that holds us together. It is this that ensures our security. And the economic crisis in Europe does not alter that.

Solidarity doesn’t mean that all member states are equally engaged in NATO operations every time. What is important is that the Alliance stands together behind its decisions and their implementation.

I regularly hear people ask whether the US is turning its attention away from Europe and its transatlantic ties. This is a question I have heard for as long as I have been interested in politics. Yes, the US has turned attention to other areas, as it should. Europe cannot take for granted that US engagement is unchangeable. Everything can change. But I believe that we still have many common interests – in terms of both principle and security policy – and that the US will therefore maintain a steady focus on Europe.

NATO is also important in the High North. This is nothing new, for the High North is one of its core areas, along the same lines as the Mediterranean. The Alliance represents an important back-up in a region of increasing strategic significance. NATO countries conduct exercises in North Norway, and our membership of NATO is a cornerstone in our exercise of sovereignty. If NATO is to be able to fulfil its mandate and tasks, it is essential that it is familiar with this region too.

Fifth: a few words about our neighbour Russia.

Today, Russia is no longer a threat to either Norway or NATO. But Russia is still important for Norwegian security policy.

We enjoy good neighbourly relations with Russia. Our cooperation is wide-ranging and is constantly being developed. This is an example of good security policy in practice. Many could learn a great deal from the cooperation we have developed with Russia. We are building a neighbourhood community, and I would call this a process of normalisation.

The increasing military cooperation between Norway and Russia in the High North is also important. This is, of course, under constant and careful consideration, to ensure that we have a good overview of developments.

The negotiations that culminated in the treaty on maritime delimitation, which settled a major unresolved issue and opened up new opportunities for cooperation, showed how important it has been to take a long-term approach, and be firm and predictable in our relations with Russia. And it demonstrated the importance of trust.

However, we will continue to follow developments in Russia, where democracy needs to take root, human rights need to be respected and the rule of law needs to be safeguarded. Questions can be asked about all these issues. At the same time Russian society has shown a new, stronger and different kind of engagement. Here too, social media are changing the nature of political engagement. People are speaking out in new ways. And they deserve to be heard.

Russia is going through a time of change, and faces considerable challenges in the years ahead when it comes to modernising its society. It has to take important decisions concerning the direction of its foreign policy. These decisions will affect us too.

We have noted that Russia has adopted a more hostile rhetoric towards several of its neighbours, such as the Baltic States and Poland – exemplified visibly by the deployment of missiles in Kaliningrad – and towards Georgia.

The security policy map looks different when viewed from Moscow than it does from Oslo. It is important to bear this in mind. It explains why the foreign policy viewpoints from the two capitals are different, which is understandable. This is something that Norway has appreciated for decades.

We have at times noted a use of language on the part of the Russians that reflects a mentality that belongs in the past. We do not perceive it to be directed against us. But as a European state, we speak out when we consider that wrong or unhelpful things have been said. Such language can create unnecessary uncertainty.

Russia is an important actor in several international contexts – in the Arctic as a partner, in Iran, the Middle East, Syria, North Korea, and in the field of energy. Moreover, Russia has the power of veto in the UN Security Council.

All in all, this means that international issues cannot be resolved without the involvement of Russia. Norwegian policy towards Russia is a policy of engagement – at both bilateral and multilateral level.

Sixth: some reflections about Europe.

The fact that our Nordic neighbours are members of the EU means that their identity is closely linked to Europe. The Nordic countries are a tightly knit web: five countries – some within and some outside NATO, some within and some outside the EU, some part of the eurozone and some not – but all part of the internal market, and all interested in closer cooperation, including on modern security policy. This is positive.

Europe will continue to become more closely interwoven. EU and NATO membership for 10 new countries from Central and Eastern Europe has had a fundamentally stabilising effect. But much remains to be done, for there are tensions in the EU cooperation that are putting a good deal to the test. Europe will, for many years yet, have a number of internal challenges to deal with. This could affect the EU’s, and indeed the whole continent’s, ability to look beyond its own area, its will and capacity to assume broader responsibility.

The financial crisis that has taken hold of Europe is engendering social unrest and political challenges: unemployment, frustration, increasing social disparities, polarisation, xenophobia, anti-democratic tendencies and extremism.

We cannot rule out the possibility that this could lead to major unrest. Countries where half the young adults are outside the labour market have a serious problem. We see how vital it is to keep the economy in order – for virtually every policy area, including security policy.

All this, dear friends, is important for Norway. It is in our interests that things go well in Europe – both economically and politically – and for this reason an economic crisis in Europe is bad news for Norway too.

We are contributing to European security, as part of the internal market, through the EEA and Norway Grants, through an open labour market, as a NATO ally, and not least as an important player in terms of European energy security. Tony Blair once said that energy security is just as important as defence policy. In this light, Norwegian gas takes on a new significance, Norwegian hydropower too. Not just for Europe today, but also for future generations.

Again, the key factors are the High North – and resources.


Sevent  and finally – key instruments and anchor points, and this could just as well have been my first point.

For a country like Norway, it is crucial that international law is adhered to as widely as possible. This is also a part of security policy. It is a vital interest for Norway that respect for the international legal order is strengthened. This too could be called a kind of first line of defence.

In international relations, right should prevail over might (although this is not always the case). In our neighbouring areas, this includes maintaining security, predictability and stability.

The UN has a crucial role to play here. Norway attaches importance to maintaining the UN’s legitimacy and credibility, at a time when multilateral governance is being challenged by new actors and different values. In today’s global reality, a time of change and unpredictability, we need the UN and a multilateral approach more than ever.

Norway has always been a strong supporter of the UN. But good friends can also offer constructive criticism. Some people romanticise the UN. My view leans towards that of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second UN Secretary-General, who commented that “The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.”

The Government is currently drawing up a white paper on the role of the UN and Norwegian interests in the light of geopolitical changes and new challenges. Moreover, Norway is a candidate for non-permanent membership of the Security Council for the 2021–22 period. That is an opportunity we will make the most of.

And while we are on the subject of the UN, it is appropriate to repeat briefly but firmly that we must renew our efforts to make progress on nuclear disarmament. This issue was put on the shelf after the Cold War. President Obama put it back on the agenda, and the US and Russia have entered into a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Now the world must take further steps. Pursuing the vision of a world without nuclear weapons is good security policy.



Security policy is closely linked to all other policy. And we must bear in mind that safeguarding our values is what it comes down to. The belief that we have something worth defending, worth preserving, worth standing up for. Just as King Haakon VII did when he said “no” – both as a matter of principle and as a security policy decision.

This is why Norway’s efforts to promote universal human rights constitute security policy in its ultimate and truest sense.

This is why the resilience and the faith in democracy expressed by the young people who gave evidence of the atrocities carried out on 22 July last year represent some of the most important security policy capital this society has. 

And this is why it is so inspiring to discuss this topic right here at the University of Oslo – one 200-year-old that is still full of life!



[1] Report No.15 (2008–2009) to the Storting


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