NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and members of the North Atlantic Council were making the rounds of Norwegian military installations, Arctic research centers, government ministers’ offices and the Royal Palace this week, on an official visit that included Liberation- and Veterans’ Day ceremonies on Wednesday. Climate change and military preparedness were on the agenda.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen attended a wreath laying ceremony at the national monument at Akershus Fortress in Oslo. In an address during the ceremony, the Secretary General expressed the Alliance’s appreciation for Norway’s contribution to NATO operations over the years. “For more than 60 years Norway together with its NATO Allies secured freedom, peace and prosperity in Europe and North America. This freedom is priceless and cannot be taken for granted. It requires continued unity and cooperation,” he said.
During his visit the Secretary General met with Prime Minister Stoltenberg and had an audience with King Harald V. He also met with Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, the President of the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, Dag Terje Andersen and members of the Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
The Secretary General’s two-day visit also includes a keynote speech at the National Conference on Europe, hosted by the University of Oslo. On Tuesday Mr. Fogh Rasmussen visited the Norwegian Armed Forces operational command centre in Bodø and saw a demonstration of Norwegian F-16 fighter jets.
After a demonstration of Norway’s Quick Reaction Alert for Norwegian F16 fighter jets, Rasmussen and Eide had talks that included joint concerns over climate change and the melting of Arctic ice. The receding ice can open new maritime routes and present new economic opportunities, Rasmussen noted, but can also present new defense challenges and territorial conflicts.
“Therefore it’s important that we avoid conflicts and secure peaceful use of these new opportunities,” Rasmussen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He stressed that NATO has no plans to increase its military presence in the Arctic, but noted that Norway along with all other NATO members could expect that NATO’s “collective (defense) responsibility” covers all parts of NATO members’ territory, “including the northern territories of Norway.”