The Ukraine crisis serves as a stark reminder that peace and stability in Europe cannot be taken for granted, according to Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide, during her keynote address at the Atlantic Council’s NATO in an Era of Global Competition conference. On Russia, she explained, “NATO has a neighbor that has demonstrated the capability and will to annex territory in Europe,” and this has profound implications for NATO. Minister Søreide stressed the need to reinvigorate NATO and outlined four areas for improvement:
- Better situational awareness and closer links between national and NATO command headquarters
- Improved readiness levels for rapid reaction forces
- Updated contingency plans
- More training and exercises
Concurrent with these improvements, Minister Søreide highlighted the imperative of maintaining a healthy transatlantic relationship. The minister argued that this relationship hinges on two key factors: continued US leadership and engagement in Europe and increased contributions from Europe to the partnership. “US leadership is needed, desired, and welcomed by European allies,” but US leadership “cannot be taken for granted, Defense Minister Søreide continued. “Europe needs to recommit to collective defense” and invest in its own security. According to the Minister, “collective defense is about much more than what the US can do for Europe,” improved burden sharing includes Europe engaging more in areas where the US has interests and where US engagement is “natural and crucial for global security,” such as in the Asia-Pacific.
Minister Søreide closed with a message for her European counterparts. She explained that when a sitting US defense secretary calls for more European defense spending, Europe must pay attention. In the minister’s opinion, there is “no escaping” the need to spend more on defense.
Prior to serving as minister of defense, Søreide was a member of the Storting for Oslo County. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, as well as of the Enlarged Foreign Affairs Committee. At the same time, she was head of the Delegation for Relations with the European Parliament, and head of the European Consultative Committee. She has served as a member of the Conservative Party Central Executive Committee since 2000. Previous political appointments include chair, Young Conservatives in Norway; first vice chair, Young Conservatives in Norway; member, Central Executive Committee of the Young Conservatives in Norway; and first vice chair, Troms Young Conservatives. Minister Søreide graduated with a law degree from the University of Tromsø.