Norway: NATO Allies Need to Address US Security Concerns Beyond Europe

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen SøreideThe transatlantic relationship and the future of NATO are at the top of the agenda for my government. We took office in October and I have made it a priority to come to Washington as early as possible because I want to make one point absolutely clear: the US is our most important ally – and we do not take you for granted. I have said this in meetings I have had earlier this week, and I will make this point also when I meet with Secretary Hagel tomorrow.

We have a long shared history – a history that we still remember. We will never forget your enormous sacrifices in the two world wars. Sacrifices securing the liberty of Europe and other parts of the world. We stood together during the trials of the Cold War. And over the past two decades the soldiers of our nations have fought shoulder to shoulder in demanding operations across the globe. Too often making the ultimate sacrifice.

We should also have a long and shared future – but I am under no illusion that this future is predetermined. We have to define it, frame it, and build it – together. So I will make the case here today for a continued strong transatlatic relationship with NATO at its core. And I pledge to make every effort to make sure Norway makes the best possible contributions to such a shared future. . . .

Nationalism is on the rise in certain parts of Europe, including tendencies towards a renationalization of defense and security policies. The financial crisis has led to increasing popular resistance to the established European order. Massive youth unemployment presents a significant challenge, and we can not exclude the possibility of increasing social unrest.

I see the transatlantic relationship as a source of stability in a world that sometimes can seem adrift. It provides not only regional, but also contributes to global stability. The need for a transatlantic security partnership – based on common values, norms, and principles – is as great as ever.

The transatlantic partnership as it exists today, would not have been possible had it not been institutionalized through NATO. NATO’s value as a political alliance should not be underestimated. Multilateral work is often hard and at times frustrating. But over time, NATO facilitates political cohesion by forming common approaches and building military capability.

What makes NATO truly unique – and sets it apart from all other alliances and organizations – is the combination of its integrated military structures and its permanent political decision-making mechanisms. No other organization has this combination of common defense planning, a common command structure, and a North Atlantic Council that is able to make political decisions on a 24/7 basis. This makes it the only multinational entity which can carry out high-intensity operations on short notice. This capability must be maintained. . . .

We need to take a hard look at burden-sharing, and Europe needs to contribute our share to our common security. The situation today – where the US shoulders more than 70% of NATO’s defense expenditure – is simply not sustainable. It is indeed undermining the very core of the transatlantic relationship. . . .

After my meetings in Congress yesterday I was left with a clear impression that there are growing factions on both sides of the aisle that are questioning the value of continued US investments and engagement in Europe. What this means is that we in the future no longer can take for granted the current US engagement in NATO. Norway understands this. . . .

The true question is what can and should be done. Allow me to make three propositions.

First of all Europe needs to demonstrate clearly that we are willing to invest in our own security. Realizing that many European countries are still burdened by the financial crisis, we still need to maintain credible defenses. We cannot expect the US to invest in European security when we are not willing to make necessary investments ourselves. . . .

We have over the past decade steadily increased our defense budgets. We are investing in deployable high-end capabilities such as new AEGIS-frigates, new F-35 combat aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft and a major modernization of our Army. These are capabilities that both serve our national needs. But they are also contributions to NATO’s ability to execute collective defense, as well as out-of-area crisis response operations. . . .

Secondly, I want to emphasize that burden-sharing encompasses more than the level of defense budgets. Europe also needs to take a greater share of the political burdens. This goes beyond defense. The process of removing chemical agents from Syria is a good example. This is close to Europe, and several NATO-Allies are directly affected by what happens in Syria. It is only natural that European countries assist in this operation. I am glad that Norway, in close cooperation with Denmark and the US, are contributing to this operation. Our civilian transport vessel as well as a frigate for escorting began the operation on Tuesday, and the first shipment out of Syria has been completed. This is transatlantic burden-sharing in practice.

Thirdly, Europe needs to demonstrate a greater understanding and willingness to address US security concerns, not only in Europe. The developments in the Asia/Pacific area are not only of consequence for the US. It affects all of us. US engagement in this part of the world is important for global stability.

There is no hiding the fact that there are political and resources limitations to what Europe can do in Asia. Still, European Allies could and should demonstrate that we care about happens in the Asia-Pacific region, because this affects us all. We need to demonstrate that we stand ready to support the US in addressing its security concerns. That is the essence of transatlantic collective security.

For just this reason Norway has committed to participate in the naval exercise in the Pacific (RIMPAC 2014) with one of our frigates. Another measure that we should consider is holding more NATO exercises in North America. Europe needs to demonstrate that we are not only net importers of security, but that we in fact can be exporters of security as well. . . .

The three core tasks we have agreed on for NATO are:

1. Collective Defence
2. Crisis management. That is, the ability to operate in high-intensity conflicts beyond NATO’s border.
3. Cooperative security, in other words strengthening security partnerships with other nations and actors – leading to increased collective security and stability.

I believe we need a balanced approach – ensuring NATO’s ability to perform all its core tasks. In fact, the three tasks are linked. For example, it is our ability to meet potential threats against our own territories and populations which makes it possible for us to conduct high-intensity operations beyond our borders. At the same time, the interoperability we gain from operating together out of area increases our ability to provide collective defense at home. . . .

The credibility of NATO’s ability to conduct collective defense is crucial for public support, as well as for the willingness of Allies to continue to invest in the Alliance. Military and political cohesion have made it possible for the Alliance to operate collectively in Kosovo and Afghanistan. This cohesion is coming under increasing strain, demonstrated most recently in in Libya. There are many reasons why our cohesion is being challenged. I am convinced, though, that it will be even more difficult to maintain cohesion if we do not focus sufficiently on collective defense. . . .

The question can no longer only be “what can the US do for Europe”? We should take steps to engage more in those areas where Europe can actually support the US. More NATO activity on US soil and a greater European willingness to engage collectively or bilaterally outside the Euro-Atlantic area will be important.

Europe needs to step up to the plate, but we cannot escape the fact the future of NATO depends on strong US leadership and engagement. It will be up to myself and all transatlanticists to ensure that Washington continues to see the value of the Alliance and that Europe still matters. In a sea of instability – there is no better anchor than NATO.

In the Alliance, the US has a functioning military organization that is based on common values among its member states. The point about common values is often neglected. However, for Norway, this is as crucial as ever. Emerging powers are challenging these values, highlighting the need for more transatlantic cohesion.

Norway believes that global stability depends on the ability of Europe and the US to work together, and that this will become even more important in the future. Our hope is that the Summit will result in a common pledge of our continued willingness to make the necessary commitments to realize this future.

We need to go beyond slogans, and start making the tough decisions that are needed. The founding fathers of NATO heeded the call in 1949, ensuring freedom and security for its members during the Cold War. We do not face the same monolithic threat as they did, but the need for NATO is as great as ever. The present generation of transatlantic leaders – including myself – have been beckoned. Norway stands ready to heed the call. Our future common security depends on it.

Excerpts from speech, “Writing NATO’s Next Chapter: The View from Norway” by Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, Washington, January 9, 2014.

Image: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide (photo: Glenn Fawcett/Department of Defense)