Syria and Iraq have all but been devoured by extremist flames, Somali terror outfit Al- Shabaab slaughtering non-Muslims who (naturally) cannot recite correctly from the Koran (is it terribly mean of me to remind you how our then FM Jonas Gahr Støre was looking to “dialogue” with them?), the Ukraine isn’t looking very stable, and what about that funny guy playing with his guns in North Korea?
Still, with all of this and more going on in the world, what is the most pressing matter for Norwegian press? The possibility that Israel might adopt a Jewish and democratic Law? With no respect whatsoever, Norwegian media could be a tad more interested in whatever Laws the Norwegian Parliament sees fit to pass, anybody with an interest should google the Finnmark county Law, which more or less denied ordinary Norwegians who are not of Sami extraction rights to the land…) Besides, we have our own very rambunctious media here and a much wider assortment of outlandish opinions, pro or contra, to make any Norwegian contribution on the matter quite superfluous.
Embassy of Israel
NORWAY BEING OUTSIDE OF THE EU IS A CLEAR ADVANTAGE TO THE PEACE PROCESS
Verdens Gang 2014 11 18
Erlend Skevik, Pay wall
Israel’s freshly arrived ambassador to Norway, Raphael Schutz, holds that Norway may play an important role in the peace process; however confess the conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians is a “disturbing element”.
Being the leader of the European department at the Israeli MFA; you were one of the highest ranking officials within the Ministry. Why did you choose a small country like Norway?
I had a dream of being the ambassador to Turkey; however, with relations being so problematic, this did not become an actuality. As the position in Norway suddenly became vacant; this became an attractive alternative. After working with the EU system for three years, it will be exciting to be working with a country on the outside; with the opportunities this gives Norway.
Israel has selected Norway as one of 20 key countries. Why is Norway so important?
There are historically close ties between us. As the leader of the donor country group, Norway also plays an important role in the Middle East. Not least, we wish for a closer economic cooperation within innovation and the oil and gas industry. As a young gas nation; we have much to learn concerning how your industry has been built up and your management of the oil fortunes.
Norway has been known to be a strong critic of Israel. Has relations improved since the change in government last fall?
We see clear improvement; however this started ahead of the change in government last year. There has been no revolution; however, there has been an increase in the understanding of Israel’s challenges. Both Jonas Gahr Støre and Espen Barth Eide were clear on Israel’s right to self-defense. In the meantime, I think it has been more about the developments in the region than about Norwegian politics. The advance of the IS makes Norway look at Israel’s security challenges with new eyes.
To which degree does the conflict with the Palestinians prevent a good relationship?
The conflict is a disturbing element. We cannot pretend it does not exist; meanwhile, it is not as dominant as it used to be. Norway is still critical towards the settlements; but by now we can cooperate in other areas.
As ambassador to Spain you strongly confronted European anti-Semitism? Are you concerned over developments in Norway?
I am concerned with the developments all over Europe. Unfortunately, such tendencies can be seen in Norway as well; with school children not daring to show they are Jewish and desecration of Jewish cemeteries.
Are you at times to rapid in making accusations of anti-Semitism towards critics of Israeli policies?
Yes, at times we are too rapid about it. I absolutely hold all criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. Some of it is entirely legitimate; however, some criticism has these traits. Israel is in many ways the new Jew. When it is no more politically correct to attack Jews; genuine anti-Semitism is camouflaged as political criticism.
The idea of a two state solution appears further away than ever. Has time arrived for Norway, and other donor countries, to have a look at alternatives?
I am not very optimist, and I understand the frustration among donor countries concerning the lack of progress. In the meantime, there is no genuine alternative. A solution depends on will on both sides: we must give up territories; while the Palestinians must admit we are part of the region.
Has Norway still a role to play in the peace process?
Absolutely. Norway has good contacts within the whole region, and has a long tradition over working for peace. Also, I hold it to be a clear advantage Norway is not a member of the EU. This gives you the opportunity to play a constructive independent role in the Middle East.
Aftenposten 2014 11 25 p 10
Ambassador Raphael Schutz
Human memory can sometimes be very short.
Just 70 years ago, yesterday morning in historical perspective, one third of my nation was exterminated here in Europe for one reason only – belonging to the Jewish people. 2,000 years of persecutions, inquisitions, pogroms and above all the holocaust, made it evident that Jews have no place under the sun they could call a home, a place where they can live in freedom, dignity and security.
The first leaders of the Zionist movement reached as early as the late 19th century the harsh conclusion – Wherever Jews live at the mercy of others, they will never be safe. Unfortunately it took most humanity a longer time and a holocaust to reach the same understanding. It happened, at long last, on November 29th 1947, when the UN decided that two states – a Jewish one and an Arab one – should be established between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And since then, the Jewish people built their long awaited home, where they can be free and defend themselves by themselves under their basic right for self-definition in their own sovereign country, the State of Israel.
67 years later, almost to the day, your editorial dated November 20th speaks against Israel “becoming” the nation state of the Jewish people- as if it hasn’t been such until now.
This is a sad demonstration of a complete lack of historical awareness. How short can one’s memory be? Why is it that the legitimacy of being Jewish – first as a religion, then as a nation and now as a State – is always under attack?
But there is more to it. The main argument there is that the meaning of Israel being a Jewish state is that its non-Jewish inhabitants will become second class citizens. Anyone who was not completely indoctrinated by anti-Israeli propaganda knows how baseless this claim can be. The equality of the Arab citizens in the Jewish and democratic state of Israel can be demonstrated in dozens of examples- Judges, politicians, doctors, etc. – but allow me to present just one: as known to many Norwegians – the one who was heading the Embassy of Israel here in Oslo for many months was a brilliant Arab-Israeli diplomat by the name of George Deek.
I’d argue that, using the writer’s logic, non-Christians here in Norway should also fear from becoming second class citizens. After all, according to the constitution Norway is based on Christian values (article 2). If this “danger” sounds absurd to you, you are right. So please, apply the same logic to my country, Israel.
Aftenposten 2014 11 19, Aftenposten’s editors
We fully share the dismay over this cruel act; in which five people lost their lives before the two perpetrators were shot and killed by the police. It is frightening to observe such blindness as to believe such actions serving the cause of the Palestinians.
It lies embedded in the merciless logic of this conflict that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu issues a warning over heavy retaliation; which by itself can lead to further escalation.
This is likely to be part of the calculations of the terrorists.
Fuel on the bonfire.
Israeli reactions are easily understood; there is no reason to disbelieve Netanyahu possessing wide support within the population over striking back. It takes no great degree of empathy to observe the psychological effects of terror within the Israeli society. Being surrounded by enemies is deeply embedded in the self-image of Israel. Nevertheless, a warning must be issued against rash reactions.
Therefore, it is a dangerous diversion as Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians pour fuel on the bonfire through the proposal of turning Israel into a Jewish state. This is to pour fuel on a bonfire which already has grown to a dangerous dimension.
Second grade citizens in their own country.
The idea behind the proposal is Israel having a unique obligation to be a protector of Jewish identity. We fear the opposite to be the possible result.
If Israel establishes a constitutionally instituted divide between its Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants; the result will be the Israeli Arabs becoming second grade citizens in their own country. At worst Israel will receive a system similar to Apartheid in pre 1994 South Africa
A Jewish state based on these principles risks becoming a pariah in the world community.
What is most concerning about his proposal is the graduation of a human’s right due to religious affiliation. This is utterly aggravating of a conflict in a community in where religious divides are more than great enough beforehand; which the recent unrest in Jerusalem proves to be an example of.
Separate states best option.
Throughout more than 20 years; Norway has worked in favor of a negotiated solution based on the Oslo Accord’s principle over separate Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting peacefully. All Norwegian governments have been behind this policy; which is supported by a large number of Western and Arab countries, In spite of many setbacks, this option is in our option the best to break the vicious circle of violence and counter violence.
If Israeli introduces legalized discrimination of its non-Jewish inhabitants; this will increase international support over the demand for one unified state for Israelis and Palestinians. Such a state will give all the same rights; developments in population growth will result in a mostly Muslim state with a significant Jewish minority.
Of course, this is a situation today’s Jewish leadership does not want; but which it’s successors may experience.
Potential damaging effects.
Friends of Israel, among whom we regards ourselves, have often justified our sympathy through Israel being a democracy in a part of the world in which this is a rare occurrence. If Israel acts to subvert this position; negative results which may be hard to foresee may appear.
We take it to be given that Norway and other countries alert Israel to this possible damage.
Dagbladet 2014 11 24 p 3
Jan Erik Smilden
This is a prominently placed Op-ed in influential daily “Dagbladet”. Perhaps needless to state, talkbacks to this article contain comments bordering to the outright anti-Semitic. The author is regarded to be an expert on the issues he is writing about.
Note: Original Norwegian words are inside the parentheses.
Here is an overview of some words and expressions important to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
A. Al Aqsa mosque. The Muslims third holiest place, on the mount referred to by Muslims as the Haram Al Sharif; and by the Jews as the Temple Mount. A point of contention to the religious strife between the parties. (Annerledes) Different: Both Jews and Palestinians are Semites; but have very little in common.
B. (Bosettere) Settlers. Jews establishing themselves in an occupied area in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, one of the most important obstacles to a peace solution
C. Common sense. Scarce commodity in the conflict.
D. Drones. Israeli pilotless aircraft for surveillance and bombing.
E. Epicenter. Gaza and East Jerusalem are the sites of the worst acts of violence.
F. Fear. People are afraid on both sides of the conflict. Fanatics: Groups among the Israelis and Palestinians are both willing to do anything to hurt adversaries and reach their targets.
G. (Grenselinjer). Borderlines. Not established between Israel and Palestine.
H. Hatred. Connected to fanatism; but one does need not be a fanatic in order to hate. Revenge. (Hevn). This conflict is one of action and retaliation. History fraud. Palestinians and Israelis has separate versions of history, which children are taught to believe in.
I. (Innrømmelser) Concessions. Also a lacking commodity in this conflict. Islamist groups are increasing in extent; being generally less conciliatory than secular organizations. Isolation. Gaza is mostly isolated from the surrounding world.
J. Jewish nation. PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand to the Palestinians over recognition over this. For all practical purposes holds that Palestinians will become genuine second class citizens and Israel turning dangerously close to being an Apartheid state.
K. (Kvartetten) The Quartet. The term for the group of USA, Russia, UN and EU established in order to find a peace solution. Led by British former PM Tony Blair. (Korrupsjon) Corruption. Takes part both among Israelis and Palestinians; the most serious is that millions in aid find their way to the pockets of dishonest Palestinians.
L. (Lidelse) Suffering. Both Jews and Palestinians have felt this bodily. To many Palestinians this is an almost daily phenomenon.
M. Myths. Negative stories, commonly repeated, dealing with the opponent. Many of thoise have not an iota of truth in them.
N. Naqba. An Arab word for disaster. The term for the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948; as 750 000 Palestinians had to flee to their neighboring countries.
O. Oslo accords. 1993 interim accord to end the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, which broke down. For all practical purposes dead as a stone.
P. (Portforbud). Curfew. An Israeli tool of power to keep Palestinians quiet when unrest is ongoing or there is danger of unrest.
Q. Qassam rockets. Homemade rockets fire from Gaza at areas in Israel. Has low precision, and has been exchanged for professional weaponry; smuggled into Gaza through subterranean tunnels.
R. Razzias. Common practice among Jewish police and security forces to fight what they term to be terrorism. Often, such operations lead to demolished Palestinian homes and innocents being arrested. Lack of respect. (Respektløshet). None of the parties to this conflict respect each other.
S. Stones being thrown. The first “tool of power” Palestinian youth employed to fight Israeli occupiers. Later on, armed action became the norm, Palestinians throwing stones are still common. State terrorism. Terrorism committed by a state, as when Israel bombs parts of Gaza to smithereens.
T. (Tro). Faith. Religion means much, both to Palestinians and Jews. Israel holds the Jews have been given their country by God. Hamas holds all of Israel to be Islamic territory.
U. Ultraorthodox Jews. Have always had a special and privileged position in Israel.
V. (Vann). Water. A scarce commodity among the Palestinians. Israel is in control of subterranean water sources in the West Bank, having the effect Jewish settlers may have swimming pools; while some Palestinian don’t even have tap water. (Veibygging). Construction of roads. Israel builds separate highways for the West Bank settlers; while the Palestinians have to contend with cattle trails in many cases.
W. Weizmann, Chaim. First President of Israel.
X. Xenophobia, Fear of the strangers. Lacking confidence between the parties is one of the major issues in the Middle East conflict.
Y. (Ydmykhet) Humility. The Palestinians are commonly treated very condescending by Israeli police and soldiers.
Z. Protocols of the elder of Zion. False pamphlet surfacing in Russia; claiming Jews want domination of the Earth.
Æ. (Ærefrykt). Reverence. Don’t exist between the parties.
Ø. (Ødeleggelser): Destruction. The Gazans have hardly rebuilt their houses; then they are bombed anew.
Israeli actions are often released by Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza.
Å. (Årelating). Bloodletting. The Palestinian people are turning ever poorer; while the Israelis occupy ever more of their land. Many Palestinians are dependent upon foreign contributions.
Mads Gilbert/Erik Fosse
ABC Nyheter 2014 11 25
The IS Islamist group is sending its wounded soldiers to a Syrian hospital which Norway takes part in financing.
The UN has according to NRK documented how the IS dispatch its wounded soldiers to be treated at the Tell Abiad hospital.
Norwegian Norwac NGO says the hospital is not under the control of IS. Sources with whom the NRK has spoken says however that this is the case.
“IS is mainly in control of the hospital. They come and goes as they please. IS receives treatment and first aid .When Norwac started, this was for civilians. By now, IS is at the hospital; however, civilians also receive aid, a Kurd nurse states”.
“We are in a close dialogue with the MFA; we have concluded with as long as we are having a good control over the money spent, the hospital has not changed policies concerning who they are treating, and therefore it must be correct to continue to support them”, says Dr. Erik Fosse of Norwac.
Norway has contributed with six Million NOK to the hospital since 2013; through the MFA. The money has been spent on a new surgical theatre, a dispensary and technical equipment.
“I was at this hospital two years ago, and then they had nothing. All technical equipment was broken”, says Fosse.
The MFA has requested Norwac to account over how the hospital is run; stating it is not acceptable if IS is in control of the hospital.
Norwac 2014 11 24, No stated author
In the spring of 2013, NORWAC visited the town of Tal Abyad in Northern Syria to meet with the town council and hospital management of National Hospital of Tal Abyad. The objective of NORWAC’s commitment was mitigating the humanitarian crisis created by the armed conflict in the area. Furthermore, it was important for NORWAC to support the health services inside Syria to relieve pressure on neighbouring countries, in this case Turkey. In addition to NORWAC, Qatar Red Crescent Society, Doctors Without Borders and International Medical Corps also support the health service in Tal Abyad.
The condition for NORWAC support for the renovation and operation of the hospital was that the hospital was run in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and universal principles of medical ethics. This means that the hospital is required to receive and treat everyone in need regardless of sectarian, political or military affiliations.
This autumn ISIS took control over the area of Raqqa province where Tal Abyad is located, and hence has total control over the town. Both Qatar Red Crescent Society and NORWAC have been closely monitoring the security situation and its effects on the running of the hospital. ISIS has made no changes in hospital management and seem to be mostly concerned with keeping the hospital operating normally. In light of this, it is NORWAC’s assessment that ISIS wants the hospital to remain a service for the civilian population and that they consequently haven’t taken control of the hospital specifically while remaining in total military control of the town.
When battles occur in the area, ISIS evacuates casualties to the hospital for initial treatment. The wounded most often remain at the hospital for a number of hours, and only very rarely more than 24 hours.
Claims of ISIS control
On November 20th 2014, NORWAC was confronted with information gathered by Norwegian national broadcaster NRK on a recent visit to the Turkish city of Sanliurfa, not far from the Syrian border and Tal Abyad. They had interviewed former employees of the hospital and inhabitants of Tal Abyad who had fled ISIS. Several of these had not been to Tal Abyad for many weeks. The NRK sources claimed that ISIS had divided the hospital into two sections and taken control of the surgical department, which was now only treating war injuries. NORWAC immediately contacted Qatar Red Crescent Society (who run the surgical department) and their local representative in Tal Abyad. They strongly refuted that any such division had taken place. Nor has the American aid agency International Medical Corps (IMC) found any reason to terminate their support for the hospital.
The NRK sources may well have mistaken treatment of injured ISIS combatants for a take-over of the hospital. Some of the NRK sources are ethnic Kurdish who are being actively persecuted by ISIS.
NORWAC has submitted the allegations of NRK to both members of hospital management and other inhabitants of the town. All of these refute the claims and confirm that there has been no change in the relation between ISIS and the hospital, aside from what has been well known to stakeholders. ISIS is maintaining the same relation with the hospital that has been espoused by previous political regimes in the area. NORWAC has not found any cases of patients being deferred treatment. The fact that the hospital treat wounded members of ISIS is entirely in keeping with the Geneva Conventions and international medical ethics regulations and as such is not grounds for terminating support for the hospital.
Furthermore, NORWAC would like to draw attention to the fact that general use of the hospital amongst the 200.000 civilians in its catchment area has increased over the last months. This lends further support to the argument for continuing support of the hospital based on the evident need, and that ISIS is not presenting an obstacle to the hospital providing services to the local population.
NORWAC engagement in Syria
NORWAC total budget for health services infrastructure inside Syria was 15 million NOK in 2013 and 15 million NOK in 2014. The entirety of the funds are granted by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2013, NORWAC spent a total of 5 million NOK on renovation of facilities and salaries for employees at the hospital in Tal Abyad. In 2014, NORWAC spent 1.2 million NOK on salaries and purchasing of equipment for the hospital.
Vårt Land 2014 11 21
Bård Larsen of Civita has written a long and well researched op-ed on legitimization of violence for political purposes; raising questions over doctors Gilbert and Fosse, and also a number of other issues. The background to this op-ed is the recent knife/pistol attack in Jerusalem. He criticizes pro-Pals like Jørgen Jensehaugen of the NTNU over their naïve interpretations of the use of violence in a political context.
Dagsavisen 2014 11 25, Jahn Otto Johansen
Veteran journalist and editor writes on the anti-Semitism on the Left side of politics; stating this is grossly under communicated, referring to incidents in Germany. He clearly indicates “Anti-Zionism” being a pretext for this phenomenon.
Times of Israel 2014 11 20
When the tiny Jewish community in Trondheim, Norway, arranged a Jewish culture festival recently, they felt the need to emphasize that the festival had nothing to do with Israel.
The festival turned out to be a success beyond all expectations, and we will never know how it would have gone without the “nothing Israeli here” guarantee.
For anyone with raised eyebrows, let me be clear: I may have made the same choice if I were in the program committee. Misperceptions of Jewish culture, religion, and history are widespread in Norway, and the Jewish community in Trondheim are housed in probably the most fortified building in the city. There is an urgent need to demystify Yiddishkeit, even if it means kowtowing to widespread BDS impulses in Norway and especially Trondheim.
The separation between anti-Israeli and antisemitic tendencies in Norway is encapsulated in the often-repeated slogan that “Norwegian Jews should not be held accountable for Israel’s policies.”
This slogan is rarely parsed for its true meaning: What would “accountable” mean in this case? Is there any case, ever, for collectively holding a minority group, in any way “accountable” for anything? Is the slogan supposed to suggest an act of tolerance, or charity, evidence of laudable but optional virtue? If someone decided to hold Norwegian Jews accountable for Israeli policies, what would that actually entail?
Needless to say, there are diverse views about Israel among Jewish Norwegians. But there is near-unanimity among them that the less they say about Israel, the better. The incident in Trondheim shows that there is pressure not just to avoid Israeli topics, but to publicly separate Norwegian Jewish life from Zionism.
(Privately, it’s another matter – the Norwegian Jewish community has deep ties to Israel.)
It is hard to escape the sense of a trend here to differentiate between Norwegian Jews who are “enlightened” by publicly disassociating themselves from Israel; and those who are “encumbered” by their Jewishness by tacitly or explicitly supporting any part of Israeli policies. When Jews in Norway do venture to speak out about Israel, they invariably (myself included) make it clear that we have – at a minimum -reservations about the current government’s policy. This is the price for being taken seriously in the debate.
This is mostly a side effect of living in a society that tends to rush to definitive answers to difficult societal questions, especially those that do not affect Norwegians directly. The debate in Norway about the Arab-Israeli conflict is mostly a domestic issue that only occasionally is reality-tested against actual events in the Middle East.
The impact on Jewish participation on Israeli matters is unfortunate, but not tragic: Norwegian Jews can put their efforts elsewhere, and there are plenty of others who weigh in on the issues.
But it is troubling to the extent that it contributes to what is a litmus test for being an “acceptable Jew” in Norway, namely one that buys into the conventional wisdom of the Norwegian public debate.
The answer to this problem lies in better, more informed coverage and debate on Israel in the Norwegian press, and a willingness among mainstream politicians to challenge entrenched assumptions about the conflict. Most Norwegian Jews have access to a broad range of information sources and can form their own opinions on controversial matters, whether they choose to express them or not.
NATO Back in Europe – a Return of Geography?
Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide held this speech at The Military Power Seminar 2014 at the Norwegian Red Cross Conference Centre, Oslo, November 20. Title for the seminar: NATO back in Europe – A Return of Geography?
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends:
thank you for the opportunity to speak at this year’s Military Power Seminar. Allow me from the outset to thank the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and the Norwegian Defence University College. You have staged an excellent program!
It is always a pleasure to be with you to discuss issues of common concern. We simply need to address a broader audience with respect to defence and security matters. We need to reach out and engage a wider public.
Last year at this seminar, we discussed lessons learned from Afghanistan. And, just as importantly, scrutinized the lessons lost during a number of years having conducted operations far away from Europe. I remember presenting a very candid assessment with regard to NATO’s ability to conduct its core tasks.
The issue is as relevant as ever. To put it bluntly: to what extent are we, Norway and NATO, prepared and capable of handling Article 5? I have for a number of years addressed the need for NATO to strike a better balance between crisis management operations “out of area” and collective defence “in area”. I will continue to beat that drum!
Our armed forces deliver high quality in many important areas. We have made significant contributions from all services to international operations over many years, and we deliver peace and security through daily operations at home. I am very proud of all our men and women serving our nation. But to stay relevant and capable in accordance with the security challenges closer to home, we need to address shortcomings in our readiness and capabilities, and we must constantly look for ways of improving.
I believe few, if any, expected the fundamental changes in European security we have seen over the last year. The challenges around us are increasing, and they are closer to NATO territory. Unrest and conflict is not something new in Europe’s periphery, but the same year as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, our shared vision of Europe whole and free is again being challenged by those who disregard international law. We once again have an armed conflict in the midst of Europe. New geopolitical realities must be taken into account when calibrating our new policy.
My attempt this morning is to offer an account of our changing security environment and how this accentuates the need to develop our Armed Forces.
A New Security Landscape
Let me begin with our neighbor in the east. Over the past years we have witnessed a more self-assertive Russia. Previously, the Russian military capacity could best be described as a “sledge hammer”: it was capable of a massive blow, but was imprecise and took a long time to prepare. Russian reforms have made its military forces more precise and versatile. They can also be deployed and employed on very short notice.
Over the past years, Russia has increased its military presence in the High North, both in terms of proclaimed training and unannounced snap exercises. The strategic components of the Northern Fleet are being upgraded, and new fighter aircraft, helicopters and air defence systems are being allocated to the region. Putin has declared that the High North is of great importance to him, and this has been matched by more Russian military activity.
Russian airplanes are flying more frequently and further down the Norwegian coast compared to a few years ago. This can be illustrated by the number of scrambles conducted by Norwegian F-16s. In 2005 we had 16 scrambles, identifying 23 Russian military aircraft. In 2013 we had 41 scrambles, identifying 60 Russian airplanes. So far in 2014, we have had 41 scrambles, identifying 67 Russian planes. This does not indicate a dramatic increase, but a trend in Russian activity over time close to Norwegian borders.
Russia has also demonstrated its will to use military means to promote national interests. The actions in Ukraine have led to tension between Russia and the West, and the relationship is at a historic low since the end of the Cold War. These actions have caused unpredictability and great concern in Europe, especially among Eastern European countries.
Although there are some historical parallels between Ukraine and the Baltic states, there is one great difference: the Baltic states are members of NATO. And let there be no doubt; any kind of military aggression against a NATO country will lead to an allied response. Subtle forms of conducting warfare – like hybrid warfare – do not undermine the value of Article 5. The principle of collective defence is as valid today as when NATO was formed in 1949.
Despite a more self-assertive Russia, I see no direct threat to Norwegian sovereignty. Norway has a different historical experience with Russia than many of the Eastern European countries. We have a long-standing common border, and we have had peaceful relations with Russia for more than a thousand years.
Even in today’s tensions, our geography requires us to cooperate in certain practical areas. This is why, although we have suspended all military-to-military activity with Russia, we have maintained cooperation on some important areas like the Coast Guard, Border Guard, Search and Rescue and Incidents at Sea-agreement. We have also kept an open line between our operational headquarters at Reitan and the Northern Fleet. We do this to avoid misunderstandings and to maintain predictability in a vulnerable region. Norway and Russia have shared interests in keeping the High North stable and peaceful.
I want to emphasize that the current tension between Russia and the West is because of Russian actions in Ukraine. In the long term, Norway seeks constructive co-operation with Russia. But it requires that Russia changes its behavior. However, even when the dust settles, the security landscape in Europe will remain different for years and years to come. The trust that Putin’s regime has broken, will take a long time to rebuild.
Our policy towards Russia has two key elements; firmness and predictability. That is why we emphasize the importance of existing treaties on arms control and confidence and security-building measures. We encourage Russia to show transparency concerning changes in the Russian military organization and its doctrines, as well as predictability with regard to ongoing and future exercises and operations.
But Russia is not our only security concern. The issue of geography and the role of NATO come to our mind also when looking at instability and conflict in our southern neighborhood. South of Europe, a series of weak and failed states stretches from West Africa, via the Middle East to Central Asia, presenting instability, terrorism, and armed conflict.
We have a terrorist group causing great concern to international security only a few kilometers from NATO’s border. The developments cause enormous human suffering, as ISIL’s brutality goes beyond human imagination. But it also represents a grave threat to our interests in the region and the security of our homeland. The conflict in Syria, for example, has mobilized a number of Norwegian citizens to take part in the civil war as jihadists.
To prevent these failed states from destabilizing neighboring countries or being used as safe havens for terrorism, there will be a demand for international assistance for decades to come, including military assistance.
The importance of NATO
The fundamental shift in the European security landscape underlines the importance of a ready and capable NATO for Norwegian and European security. We must work hard to strengthen NATO, both as a military and political alliance.
NATO is much more than its military component. It is a political alliance of shared values and principles. And it is the most important forum for transatlantic security consultations. But, to be politically credible, NATO needs to have the necessary military capabilities and be sufficiently prepared.
The NATO Summit two months ago gave a clear response to the challenges that I have described. Collective defence was again on the top of the agenda, with emphasis on both deterrence and reassurance. NATO’s decision to both air, sea and land forces to the Baltic region is a strong message about the Alliance’s solidarity and collective will to take action. This includes reinforced Air Policing, standing naval forces and surveillance. Right now, parts of the Telemark battalion is participating in exercise and training in Latvia as part of NATO’s reassurance measures.
Another key message is that NATO is ready to improve its readiness and responsiveness, and the formation of NATO Readiness Action Plan is an important measure.
Development of Norwegian Armed Forces
So, what does all of this mean for developing the Norwegian armed forces? What do we need to do to be robust and relevant to handle the full spectrum of armed conflict?
I see at least three key priorities.
First, we need armed forces with higher readiness and ever better responsiveness. Recent developments in our surroundings have taught us that we cannot expect much warning for a crisis building up. We need to be able to respond swiftly with relevant capabilities, and this in turn requires high readiness
Second, we need to be able to maintain adequate situational awareness. We need information and intelligence superiority. Situational awareness is essential to make timely and correct decisions, both nationally and within the framework of NATO.
Third, we also need to reassess our contingency planning for the defence of Norway. We decided to revitalize military planning for crisis and war a few years ago. This has already proven its value.
We must systematically work on improvements in logistics, personnel and readiness. We need to be able to start force build up at an early stage, both to deter an aggressor, but also to facilitate allied reinforcements.
Let me add that I am very pleased that NATO has updated the contingency plans for collective defence of Norway. This is something we have advocated for some time.
The improvements we foresee will come at a price, and require new priorities. In the context of Norwegian defence planning it means more robustness around those capabilities that are relevant and contributes directly to the most demanding tasks.
It is my firm belief that we need to keep investing in our own security. It is essential for our national defence, but it is also essential for NATO’s credibility. It is essential if NATO is to continue to be the successful alliance it has been since its inception.
Under these circumstances, the need for multinational cooperation is greater than ever. This goes for all aspects of warfare; from procurement, via maintenance, training, and exercises, to operations.
This leads me to my final point.
Although increased focus on collective defense is a first order challenge, we must also be capable of conducting international operations beyond NATO territory. NATO and allies must be able to perform the full spectrum of tasks. As already mentioned, the situation in the Middle East requires international support in years to come. This includes military support.
This is why we have decided to send 120 soldiers to the international coalition against ISIL in Iraq. Their purpose is to train Iraqi security forces, and qualify them to take care of their own security. We cannot allow ourselves to be indifferent to the humanitarian catastrophe taking place in this region.
It is also in Norway’s interest to contribute to international peace and stability. By military engagement outside Norwegian territory we fulfil our international obligations, we demonstrate solidarity and we contribute to better burden sharing. It also strengthens our ability to operate and conduct military operations with allies and close partners. The will to take international responsibility also strengthens the cohesion and credibility of NATO.
New Long term plan for the armed forces
Ladies and gentlemen,
We must step up to new challenges. We have recently started the process of preparing a new long term plan for the Norwegian Armed Forces. Last month I tasked the Chief of Defence with providing military advice on the future development of our armed forces, and I am looking forward to receiving his recommendations.
The issues I have raised here today will be the matter of careful discussions in the coming months. I can tell you right now that we need to make some difficult decisions and hard priorities. But at the same time it is absolutely necessary to keep modernizing and readjusting our armed forces to be able to meet new challenges. We owe it to our citizens and we owe it to our soldier to be best prepared for the full spectrum of crises.
Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to take a few questions. I also plan on staying for the first part of this seminar.
Defense and security
- PST: Norway Will Be Target of a Terrorist Attack in Twelve Months
- Fewer Seek Asylum in Norway
- Oil Prices in Free Fall, State Budget Can Be Affected
- 5800 Norwegian Police Officers to Be Armed
- Norway’s New Passports Attract International Interest
There is between 60 and 90 percent risk that Norway will be target of a terrorist attack during the next year. It comes from a secret briefing PST has given the government, writes Dagbladet.
Head of Information PST, Martin Berntsen confirms to Dagbladet that terror risk is greater than ever.
PST rating is based on obtained information in collaboration with international secret services.
In the frame of measures against the threat, police will carry weapons from Tuesday morning, according to Dagbladet
ZeeNews 2014 11 25, AFP
Oslo: Norway will give its usually unarmed police force firearms for the next month in response to the “likely” risk of a terrorist attack, the police said Tuesday.
Uniformed officers on surveillance and intervention duties will carry a gun starting today,” Norway`s National Police Directorate said in a statement.
“The reason has to do with the risk assessment by PST (Norwegian intelligence services), which indicates that the police and the army are possible targets of terrorist attacks.”
On November 5, the PST said that “within the coming 12 months, it is likely that Norway will be threatened by terrorist attacks or exposed to attempted strikes”, referring to recent attacks perpetrated or thwarted in Canada, Britain and Australia.
Norwegian authorities have said they fear the return of seasoned and radicalised jihadists to the country after fighting in the Syrian conflict.
According to PST, about 60 people with links to Norway have taken part or still participate in combats in the war-torn country.
“Four weeks (the expected duration of the measure) could be considered too short a period, but it`s because we want to make a new assessment” within a month, Justice Minister Anders Anundsen told Norwegian news agency NTB last week.
Norway is known as a generally peaceful country, but was shaken in 2011 by the bloody attacks of right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people.
Although police in the Nordic country usually work unarmed, they can use fire arms which are locked away in police cars.
The Norwegian army has recommended its personnel not to wear uniforms when off duty.
The decision has sparked a storm of criticism from Norwegian Internet users — opposed to arming the police — many of whom pointed to the shooting of an African American teenager in Ferguson, US, by a white police officer last August.
International Business Times 2014 11 25
Putin’s latest move to beef up military force in the Arctic is seen as his efforts to safeguard Russia’s national interest in the region. Reuters
Russia is planning to set up the headquarters of its Arctic Command at a naval base used by its Northern Fleet, and the new facility will become operational on Dec. 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Monday.
The Arctic Command is part of Russia’s plan to form a combined arms group and construct a unified network of military facilities in the country’s Arctic territories, by hosting troops, advanced warships and aircraft to strengthen the protection of its northern borders, Ria Novosti reported.
“A new strategic command in the Arctic, based at the Northern Fleet, will become operational on December 1 this year,” Putin reportedly said, in a meeting with top military commanders on Monday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that the newly formed Arctic Command, dubbed “North,” will include the country’s Northern Fleet, two Arctic-warfare brigades, in addition to its air force and air defense units by 2017, according to Ria Novosti.
The latest announcement by Russia follows recent media reports that Norwegian scientists had spotted a Russian submarine surface in the Arctic Circle in October. The submarine was reportedly the 13,700-ton Delta class boat Orenburg, a newly refurbished ballistic missile bomber.
In October, a senior Russian military commander said that the country would strengthen its military forces with more airfields and radar stations in the Arctic.
“We are planning to build 13 airfields, an air-ground firing range, as well as ten radar and vectoring posts,” Lt. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Management Center, was quoted as saying at the time, by Ria Novosti.
Russia’s Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi also reportedly said in October that the country could submit another request to the United Nations, seeking to expand its Arctic borders by 1.2 million square kilometers (more than 463,322 square miles).
A Russian expert also said that the country’s prospective submission to the U.N. to expand the limits of its Arctic borders is backed by scientific research. Over the past few years, the Russian government has reportedly been undertaking several political, economic and military measures to safeguard the country’s interests in the Arctic.
In October 2013, Putin vowed never to “surrender” Russia’s Arctic area. He later ordered the Defense Ministry to take steps to protect Russia’s interests in the region, Xinhua reported.