Odd Roger Enoksen
Minister of Defense (Sp)
The Russian force building near Ukraine is close to us in at least four ways.
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
Peace and freedom do not come by themselves. Norwegian security is not a constant quantity. The security situation in and around Ukraine is a serious reminder of just that.
The new and frightening thing in the situation we are now in is that we see a Russia that has completely unprovokedly sent more than 100,000 soldiers to the border around Ukraine. A country that can in no way be said to pose a military threat to Russia.
Russia then uses the situation it has created itself to force NATO and the United States to the negotiating table. There they have made a number of unacceptable demands.
The right of the strongest
Russia wants a world order characterized by the right of the strongest. A world where great powers have the right to set the terms for the scope of the small state’s self-determination and real freedom of action. Through its lists of demands to both the United States and NATO, Russia promotes demands we cannot accept.
Which alliances different countries want to enter into and with whom, and how they organize their defenses, are decisions that sovereign states themselves must make. Military aggression should not be rewarded.
We will stand together on such attempts to upset European stability
Ukraine is geographically some distance from Norway. There is little reason why Russia should choose to march large troop forces along our common border in the north. The Russian force building near Ukraine is still close to us in at least four ways:
- This is close because Russia embraces the entire NATO area and its entire border zone to the west through its demands. Norway is part of this. The requirements include strong restrictions on NATO and US activity in this peripheral zone. We can not accept this. It will be up to Norway and our allies how we put together and exercise our presence on our territory and in our sea areas – to ensure Norwegian and allied security. It is also in Norway’s and allied interest to defend the principles of free movement in international waters and airspace.
- This is close because Russia, in the event of a further escalation and, in the extreme case, military operation further into Ukraine, will probably strengthen the protection of its nuclear weapons forces on Kola and in the Barents Sea. In technical language, we call this the bastion. We have several times observed how Russia exercises to strengthen the bastion, such as during exercise Ocean Shield in the late summer of 2019. During this exercise, Russia demonstrated the ability to advance large maritime forces and air forces in the waters west of Norway, thereby greatly reducing Norwegian and Allied freedom of action. to operate in and strengthen Norway and Norwegian neighboring areas.
- This is close because Norway is a neighboring state to Russia with proximity to one of Russia’s most important military strategic areas. Norway and Russia have a clarified relationship in the north. But we can not close our eyes to the fact that Russia, through the build-up of forces near Ukraine, is showing that it is willing to use military force to achieve its political goals.
- It is close because our Nordic neighbors, and especially non-aligned Sweden and Finland, perceive the situation as a direct challenge to their security and security policy freedom of action. We will stand together on such attempts to upset European stability.
A strong national defense
The deteriorating security situation that my predecessors and I have been warning about for several years has now taken a new turn. For Norway, this means that we must continue to build a strong national defense. A defense that is present throughout the country is modern and can react quickly.
At the same time, the current situation emphasizes our alliance affiliation. NATO membership is a bottom line in our security. Robust and binding alliances, where like-minded countries seek together to protect our way of life and security, have gained renewed importance. It is in such communities of opinion and security that our security is best safeguarded.
NATO membership is a bottom line in our security
NATO membership gives both rights and obligations. Our exercise of membership and our cooperation with close allies must be cultivated and adapted to the environment.
This cooperation must work in peacetime. This is when we can practice, train and operate first and foremost to avoid conflicts arising, but also to prepare ourselves for how we will fight together if necessary. The security situation indicates that just such an activity is important now.
We must not fear war
Later this winter, up to 35,000 Norwegian and Allied soldiers will practice in Norway during the exercise Cold Response 2022. Then we will, together with about twenty allies and partner countries, practice how Norway as part of Allied territory can be defended. This shows Allied unity.
The exercise will be carried out in both northern and southern Norway. It emphasizes that the choice of where and how we practice is our decision as an alliance. At the same time, this type of exercise follows the long lines of Norwegian security policy.
We have a long tradition of inviting allies and partners to exercises in Norway. The exercises are well informed and carried out in a transparent and non-confrontational manner. The exercise is not a threat to Russia, and Norway has notified and informed the Russian side of the exercise.
We should not fear war in Norway as a result of the Russian force building in and around Ukraine. But we must take into account the seriousness of security policy in Europe and how it concerns us.
We must be aware of the forces that have now been set in motion, and in what way our and our allies’ security is affected. Through Allied unity and secure anchoring in our common values, we will protect Norwegian and Allied security against Russian pressure.