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Global and regional security is our common responsibility

International peace and security remains a high priority of the Norwegian Government, a priority we pursue daily through various channels. Key among these channels is our membership and continued strong support of the United Nations and NATO.

Common Defense Quarterly, Fall 2012
Article by Mr. Espen Barth Eide
Norwegian Minister of Defence

This engagement is driven by the fact that we consider the multilateral approach to be of paramount importance. We remain convinced that in an ever more complex world, future challenges will increasingly be global or regional in nature. Therefore, they need to be addressed in a global context and also, I believe, with increased regional co-operation in mind.

Time and time again it has been said that future threats will be different from the threats of the past. In many ways this is obviously true. The battlefields of Europe and the Pacific in World War II are far away from the challenges posed both to us and our children by the rise of the so-called Global Village. With the nations of the world becoming more and more interdependent, economies and markets rise and fall together. Hence, the downfall or rising prosperity of one nation may impact many nations. In my mind, these growing interdependencies call for a better perception of our collective responsibility and need for common action when it comes to safeguarding global and regional security. In my view, the last decade has strengthened the argument that common action and collective solutions are keys to safeguarding international stability.

An important consideration in this regard is the continuing and growing diversity and unpredictability of the challenges we face. The Cold War environment, in many ways, provided its own predictability based on the perceived rationality of nation-states locked in their positions in international politics. The new security environment since the turn of the century has been characterized also by the opposite, namely failed states and the inherent irrationality and unpredictability of non-state actors and terrorists. Furthermore, terrorism has grown from being largely a national and regional challenge into becoming a global threat. At the same time, traditional security threats persist and conflict between states may again rise to become the most serious challenge to international peace and stability. The security environment is further challenged by threats of cyber-attack, long distance weapon systems and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. While perceived trends in security policy and technology may only indicate future development, “strategic shocks” should not be discounted. Unexpected events may be caused by nature or be man-made, for instance regional instability or war, acts of terrorism, nuclear accidents, breakdown of financial systems, pandemics etc. Some of the threats we are facing today will likely pose great challenges to our traditional way of thinking about the world as a function of the interests of nation-states, as well as the traditional division between the military and societal affairs.

The complex security picture, and the unpredictable nature of threats we could face, entails difficulties even for the short term security and military planning. Planning, not to say meaningful predictions for future decades ahead invariably proves harder still. Nevertheless, this is a challenge we must face up to. If we do not take on the burden of thinking and planning ahead, we will merely perpetuate what we currently are doing, and this is not the prudent approach to prepare for the future.

As many challenges have turned global, an intrinsic part of the effort to protect ourselves against these is to enhance co-operate with allies and partners. Through broad co-operation to maintain peace and security, we may also achieve cost effective solutions. While we continuously underscore the importance of the UN and promote co-operation with all nations sharing our views, we seek to further develop NATO as the key security and defence organisation for its member states, and as a significant contributor to international peace and stability. In order for NATO to remain relevant, its member nations must provide the best tools available. Identifying new capabilities to meet new threats and challenges remains a responsibility for all member states. At this particular juncture, when several nations experience severe economic constraints, this effort becomes ever more urgent. This implies that we have to create collective and collaborative solutions that enhance our common capabilities. This is clearly in the interests of both NATO and the individual countries concerned.

There are already several examples of how such collaboration may be carried out in a way which strengthens our common efforts. In 1978 NATO approved the joint acquisition of 18 AWACS aircraft to be operated as an Allied capability. NATO still operates this fleet of aircraft, and it remains a vital capability for the Alliance, enabling missions spanning from the Cold War scenarios of the 1980s to the challenges of today, most recently in operations Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector over Libya. Norway supports this capability and is working in close co-operation with Allied nations to keep it available and updated in the face of both current and future joint operations and missions.

Norway is also a partner in the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC). Investing in the C-17 strategic transport aircraft is in the interests of both Norway and the Alliance. Procuring strategic airlift remains an impossible investment for small member nations alone, but it is feasible in co-operation with partners.

The most recent example has been the effort to procure a NATO Air to Ground Surveillance capability, known as AGS, using large remote controlled aircraft. The purpose of this capability is to ensure that our commanders are equipped with the best information and providing them with the best possible situational awareness when carrying out NATO missions.

AWACS, SAC and AGS are only three of the very important capabilities developed and operated by the Alliance. These capabilities are examples of expensive yet vital capabilities which few NATO nations are able to develop, procure and operate effectively by themselves. By pooling our resources and acquiring such systems together we ensure that they are available to all member states. Common capabilities benefit us all, as they increase the military capability of the participating nations as well as the Alliance as a whole.

Co-operative efforts must be intensified also at the regional level. The Nordic countries have been working together for many years to develop joint solutions. In the current economic crisis our experiences may prove valuable also for other countries. Of course, as close neighbours, our geographical location may give us particular advantages, and we also enjoy a high degree of mutual trust. We share similar views on the need to make our armed forces more effective and making the most of our national military resources.

These co-operative activities have today come a long way. Norway and Sweden have collaborated in developing a new artillery system Archer, and there are Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian combat aircraft exercising regularly across national borders. Last year we had 62 days of joint training and exercising involving the air stations at Bodø (Norway), Rovaniemi (Finland) and Umeå (Sweden); all of them located in the High North, and we fly in each other’s air space. This allows each country to train against “foreign” aircraft. Our training benefits all three countries at no extra cost, and all costs are borne from existing training budgets.

Continued Norwegian Modernisation

While we continue to build our common capabilities, it is also important to maintain relevant and capable national armed forces which provide effective contributions to both Norwegian and international peace and security. To this end, the Norwegian Parliament this summer 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. Below I will highlight a few central initiatives.

First of all, the Long Term White Paper confirms the decision to procure the F-35 as our future combat aircraft. As a partner nation in its development programme, we share the same vision of acquiring the best aircraft at the best possible price to safeguard our future security. The F-16 aircraft, which we have operated for more than thirty years, has been a success. We expect the F-35 to be a successful future platform for our armed forces as well, managing the full range of potential air missions that we now foresee. In addition, we have restructured the bases of the Norwegian Air Force in order to ensure that we continue to operate in an efficient way.

Secondly, the Long Term White Paper focuses on bringing the Army into a highly modern, efficient tool, capable of resolving both national and international missions. With new artillery systems, infantry fighting vehicles, soldier systems, and improved C4ISR capabilities, we will ensure that the transformation and modernisation process continues.

Finally, in addition to enhancing and strengthening our more traditional military capabilities, the new Long Term White Paper outlines several other emerging security challenges, chief among them cyber security. The cyber domain has become an integrated and inseparable part of everyday life. But at the same time, it represents a possible “Achilles heel”, as cyber threats challenge both governments and businesses. In order to strengthen our defences, and to better understand the cyber threats, the Armed Forces will establish a cyber command. In my view, this initiative represents an historic step for the Norwegian Armed Forces, and it underlines the importance we give to encountering cyber threats.


In a more complex security environment global challenges will require increasingly common action and global solutions. One of the lessons learned since the end of the Cold War is that NATO is well placed for dealing with the common security challenges facing us all in the future. As we start redeploying from Afghanistan, we must strengthen NATO, making it skilled at handling a wide array of future security challenges. We must not forget the lessons learned from the ISAF mission, but we must avoid the risk of preparing for yesterday’s conflict and hence continue to transform the Alliance and adapt it to emerging challenges. We will probably not know the exact and specific threats and challenges we will face, however, in my view, NATO will be the single most important actor to secure our good future.