Speech by Norwegian Minister of Defence Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen
At the Military Power Seminar,
Oslo, 6 December 2012
From “out of area” to “in area”
First, I would like to thank the organisers for the invitation to open this traditional seminar. Today’s theme is very relevant indeed.
A NATO member state bordering an armed internal conflict, has recently called for allied support. The security needs of Turkey, brings NATOs neighbourhood policy to our attention. It illustrates how the Alliance works. The security concern of one Ally is the concern of all. This is allied solidarity in practice.
And it is part of the complex security outlook NATO is facing and which I am going to talk about this morning.
You will recall that since the early 1990s, the Alliance has been devoted to international crisis management. From 2003 this has become an almost all absorbing strategic assignment. The question is, at what cost?
In my opinion, it has affected NATO in a fundamental way. As “In area” for many years has been replaced by “out of area”, the capability for collective defence of NATOs core area has gradually crumbled away. With the ISAF mission is coming to an end this needs to be corrected.
Our transformed National Armed Forces is primarily built and organised for the defence of Norway. Additionally, they are dedicated to the collective defence of NATO member states. The capabilities of our forces is however well suited for operations abroad. Hence, we will continue to take our responsibility in promoting international peace and security.
We will do this in a world that is rapidly changing. Allow me therefore to say a few words on our strategic environment.
The Strategic Environment
In the new world order that emerge, we must recognize that the position for Europe has been significantly changed. We have over the past few years seen how emerging economic great powers, such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia have altered the global balance of power. We also see a revitalized and self-confident Russia.
This is a world in which the traditional political and economic dominance of the West is in decline. The United States will for many years continue to be the world’s only true military superpower. But the lead is diminishing. This is something the US political leaders clearly recognize and has begun to adapt to.
The prevailing economic crisis in Europe is also part of this changing strategic environment. It is without doubt the greatest challenge facing NATO today. We need to prepare ourselves to be in this dire situation for the long haul. The crisis in Europe has over time developed into a crisis of emerging social distress and mistrust in governments and financial institutions. This defies our very idea of Europe and its international role.
The situation becomes even more critical, knowing that cuts are made just at a time when the need for further military transformation is coming to the fore.
In several countries it has been impossible to reach the broad political consensus which has been the basis for our own restructuring process. This is regrettable as such times of austerity provide a good opportunity to take the necessary steps.
As Minister of Defence and responsible for the current long term plan, I know the tremendous efforts required. It takes time for the benefits of a restructuring process to become evident. The process is long term and painful. I am satisfied that we have been able to take tough, but necessary decisions for our national defence sector in favourable economic times. After more than ten years of hard work, we find ourselves in a situation in which we can make choices out of wisdom and not out of necessity.
Many of my allied colleges are not so fortunate. It is of great concern that many European countries are being forced to cut entire elements from their defence structures. There is no doubt that cuts especially made at the high end of capabilities will critically affect NATO over time. We must, therefore, make sure that cuts are made in a way that takes account of our collective security requirements. If not, this will represent a serious challenge in the context of burden sharing and in maintaining the transatlantic ties.
Unfortunately, there are signs to the contrary. Allies, in dire economic straits, feels compelled to cut quickly and in many cases, unilaterally. We also see that common funded or multilateral projects come under pressure. The total defence expenditure in NATO is certain to drop further in the short term.
Obviously, we cannot simply continue business as usual. The Chicago Summit earlier this year launched Smart Defence and the Connected Forces initiative as a response to reduced budgets and reduced operational cooperation in Afghanistan. In such times of austerity, multinational solutions are the apparent answer, both in relation to capabilities and training. (end of excerpt)
for the full text, on the Norway MoD website.