Speech by Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide at the conferende "A New Nexus of global Threats? Concepts and Response" in Oslo Sept. 17 2014. The title of her speech was "Responding to the Nexus – The Case for NATO".
*check against delivery*
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have no doubt that we live in interesting times. The NATO Summit in Cardiff is, in my opinion, the most important NATO Summit in recent years. Yes, it has been stated before, but this time is different. It is different because the security landscape in Europe has changed.
Our shared vision of a Europe whole and free is challenged by those who disregard the rule of law. The unison condemnation of Russian aggressive actions in Ukraine at the Summit leaves no room for interpretation. Likewise, the instability in our southern neighbourhood is causing grave concern. ISIL’s disregard for human life and rights is unacceptable to all of us.
After nearly two decades conducting “out of area” operations, NATO is again focusing on possible threats against our own territory. NATO has restarted contingency planning for the defence of Europe in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. I believe this is a strong signal, which I’m not sure that our societies have fully recognised. The thought of conflict in the midst of Europe is perhaps too painful to contemplate. We had hoped this chapter was behind us.
Instead, the challenges around us are increasing. On Europe’s Eastern border we see a more self-assertive Russia. Even when the dust settles on the conflict in Ukraine, the security landscape in Europe will be fundamentally changed. We’ll be faced with a different Russia – a Russia that has shown its cards. It has demonstrated not only its will but also its ability to use military force to achieve political goals outside its borders. The trust that Russia has broken, cannot be rebuilt in full.
Previously, the Russian military capacity could best be described as a “sledge hammer”: Capable of a massive blow, but both imprecise and took a long time to prepare. The Russian modernisation program has made its military forces a more precise and versatile tool, which can be employed at far quicker notice. In simple terms, it has given Russia more military options.
South of Europe, an arch of weak and failed states stretches from West Africa to Central Asia, presenting instability, terrorism, and armed conflict. This represents a grave threat to our interests in the region and the security of our homelands. Particularly the brutal and devastating wars in Syria and Iraq are of great concern. ISIL’s brutalism in Syria and Iraq goes beyond human imagination. To prevent these failed states from destabilising neighbouring countries or being used as safe havens for terrorism, there will be a demand for international assistance for decades to come.
All in all: We see a complex picture with a combination of conventional and unconventional means, state and non-state actors, little to no warning time – and an illustration that in today’s world geographical distance doesn’t automatically constitute safety. Let me go a bit more in detail.
The economic crisis has had a huge impact on defence spending throughout NATO. 21 of 28 member countries will spend less on defence in 2014 than they did in 2008. European NATO members spend in total 13 % less than in 2008. It is essential that the cuts are reversed, and European allies carry our fair share of the burden. For success against today’s security challenges, political and economic tools need to be backed-up by credible military power.
In many ways the military-strategic dilemma for Western states has changed. In previous times we developed our military forces to withstand divisions and armies of main battle tanks. War was in a way declared when tanks rolled over a border. There was something predictable about it. It takes time to assemble large forces, and their axes of advance are limited in numbers. Today, though, a potential aggressor has greater freedom of choice for her attacks, both in terms of time, type, and place.
Russia has through snap-exercises and operations shown the ability to quickly concentrate large forces on a high-level of readiness close to allied territory. Without prior notification such activities are very destabilising for European security. Firmness and predictability have been key components in our relations with Russia. That is why we emphasise the importance of existing treaties on arms control and confidence and security-building measures. We encourage Russia to use these frameworks to show transparency concerning changes in the Russian military organization and its doctrines, as well as predictability with regard to ongoing and future exercise activities and operations.
The introduction of new technology has fundamentally altered the way we think about defence. New technology opens up for opportunities that were previously thought unimaginable. But it also makes us vulnerable. Attacks, whether conventional or through cyberspace, against our navigational or communication systems could impact the ability of governments to respond in times of crisis and war. Developments within the field of long-range precision fires create the opportunity for attacks with little or no warning before impact. Smaller and mid-sized nations with limited resources will increasingly have difficulties in fully protecting and defending themselves in all domains.
The massive increases in costs for military hardware are especially challenging for smaller nations. There is a major difference in the role of technology in the corporate and the military sector. In the corporate sector, new technology has been cost-reducing, while in the military sector, it’s driving up costs. As our platforms become more expensive, many nations risk reaching a “critical mass”, the point where it doesn’t make sense to operate a system nationally. In order to maintain a full-spectrum of military capabilities, there is a greater need for role specialisation and/or integration with our close allies.
Smaller NATO states will require allied reinforcements at a very early stage during a crisis. It is important that we already in peace-time make the proper arrangements to ensure that reinforcements can arrive quickly. This will be a strong signal to a potential aggressor that there will be a multinational response. Norway is seeking to deepen our security and defence cooperation with those allies that will play a key role in defending Norway in a crisis.
The focus of our own forces, should a crisis arise, needs to be on handling the situation until reinforcements arrive. We need forces that can respond swiftly to a crisis building-up close to, or on, our territory. Our military actions must seek to deter a potential aggressor. Keeping forces on a high-level of readiness is costly, but could help prevent armed conflict from breaking-out.
These developments represent a great challenge to how we develop our armed forces. I believe that Norway and other European countries could be on the verge of a larger reorientation of our defence organisations, particularly how we look at multinational defence cooperation.
The economic rationale for deeper cross-national defence cooperation is clear. This goes for all aspects of warfare; from procurement, via maintenance, training, and exercises, to operations. It may even require a greater reliance on our close allies to provide some capabilities. Over time, this may be required for NATO to maintain its full-spectrum of capabilities. The discussions in NATO over the past time have been the need to fill the capability gaps and how to do it. As an alliance, we need to utilise the economies of scale.
But more importantly, in a globalized world, instability and conflict are rarely neatly confined within national borders. And NATOs security starts far beyond its borders. Solving some of today’s most pressing challenges require concerted and multilateral effort. We do this best with our close allies, with whom we share values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. It requires a NATO that can perform the full spectrum of tasks – collective defense, crisis management and building security with others. That is why Norway is investing, and will continue to invest in our NATO membership.
I thank you for your attention!