Norway, an Exemplar of NATO Burden-Sharing

Norwegian exercise Viking Ymer, Nov. 21, 2016Norway has certainly benefitted from U.S. security guarantees and has, in the process, transformed itself from an impoverished nation, at the end of World War II, to one of the world’s richest today. But over the past few decades, Norway has prioritized its strategic relationship with Washington and now stands out as one of its most reliable allies.

For one, Norway has played a leadership role within NATO by providing stability and predictability to the North Atlantic, a vast region that also serves as a gateway for Russian nuclear submarines and warships capable of reaching the United Kingdom and continental Europe. Oslo has simultaneously established itself as a leader within NATO when it comes to burden-sharing; and yes, it also pays 50 percent of all costs related to U.S. tanks, armored vehicles, and other defense equipment stored in Norway as part of the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program–Norway agreement, which was reached in 2005….

Neither does Norway take its relationship with Washington for granted, which explains its active roles within NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). In 2014, Oslo demonstrated solidarity with the United States by dispatching one of its five Aegis frigates, KNM Fridtjof Nansen, to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise—the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise—which took place in and around the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of southern California. The decision at the time was to demonstrate support for President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia, as Norway’s shipping industry also benefits from preserving the freedom of navigation and the stability of the greater Pacific Rim….

To enhance its deterrence against Russia, Oslo is currently upgrading all of Norway’s armed forces. Part of that effort includes upgrading its entire submarine fleet and making it operational by 2025–2030. It also plans to purchase five P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircrafts designated for anti-submarine warfare….

Furthermore, given that the U.S. Navy is the smallest it has been since 1915, even if its overall capabilities have since dramatically improved, Russia’s investments in submarines could potentially reduce U.S. naval superiority. Since the Northern Fleet is based in the town of Severomorsk, in relatively close proximity to the Norwegian border, Oslo is uniquely positioned to provide Washington with the necessary situational awareness that it needs for defense planning. The incoming Trump administration could also benefit from enhanced Norwegian intelligence capabilities to better track Russian submarines. This could be of particular importance in helping inform its decision-making on how to rebuild the U.S. Navy and preserve its maritime superiority….

Oslo’s military upgrades, including its participation in the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 program, combined with the upcoming acquisition of maritime surveillance aircrafts and its enhanced submarine capabilities, will inevitably benefit the incoming Trump administration and help it keep track of Russia’s behavior in the North Atlantic—including monitoring its nuclear submarines.

Sigurd Neubauer works for a U.S. defense consultancy and is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @SigiMideast.

Image: Norwegian exercise Viking Ymer, Nov. 21, 2016 (photo: Henrik Royne/Norwegian Armed Forces)