Norwegian authorities must take part of the responsibility for Russia’s military equipment in Norway’s immediate areas in the north, claims defense researcher and lieutenant colonel Tormod Heier in a new book.
Heier writes that the lack of investment in a larger defense from the Solberg government has made Norway more dependent on forces from the USA to deter Russia in the High North.
Thus, the Norwegian freedom of action in relation to Russia is also weakened, he believes.
“The Russians do not fear Norway. The Russians only fear the United States “, writes Heier in his new book” A marginal state going astray? Norway’s path into the new Cold War 2014–2021 ».
“More dependence on the United States and NATO also means that the Norwegian room for maneuver will be smaller. This increases the risk that crises in Norwegian neighboring areas may occur
in a direction that is not necessarily in Norway’s interest “, he writes.
– What’s the problem with inviting the United States in, Cheers?
– Then we invite a great power that carries with it a different culture for how to handle used situations. The Norwegian authorities are concerned with averting a crisis. While the United States is more concerned with winning a crisis with Russia, which the United States considers a strategic competitor. Norway, on the other hand, considers Russia to be a legitimate player in the Norwegian-Russian border areas, he tells VG.
In the book, Tormod Heier points out that Erna Solberg’s government received clear signals from former Chief of Defense Haakon Bruun-Hanssen that a long-term plan without significant efforts in the Armed Forces would make Norway more dependent on military aid from NATO and the United States.
Nevertheless, the Solberg government chose the cheapest alternative, he claims:
“Thus, there seems to be a desired political development to down-prioritize the possibilities of having control in the Norwegian-Russian border areas, and rather leave this to allies,” writes Heier. And adds:
“Lack of Norwegian freedom of action is largely financially conditioned. Before
to stick with Norwegian forces rather than let American forces do the work,
costs more money than what the authorities will pay for “, he writes.
«Norwegian, American and Russian forces respond to each other
escalation, which in turn triggers a classic security dilemma in and around Norway: An increased military presence from the western side leads to increased Russian insecurity, which in turn triggers more military activity “, writes Heier.
He asks big questions about whether this is in Norway’s interest.
Falls on its own unreasonableness
Former Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) has read parts of the book. She flatly rejects Heier’s view:
– Heier’s claims fall on their own unreasonableness. For example, the rotation-based exercise and training of the US Marines at Værnes and Setermoen had at most a scope of about 700 soldiers. This can in no way be called “letting American forces do the work.” Nor can the periodic training with maritime patrol aircraft on Andøya be taken as income for such a sight, Solberg tells VG.
– The patrol planes were there for completely different reasons. I can not say more about it, she adds.
Solberg says that her government since 2013 has strengthened Norway’s national defense capability, and not made Norway more dependent on NATO or the Americans – but NATO’s security guarantee is still an important part of Norway’s defense concept.
– We renewed the Armed Forces
To VG, Solberg also rejects Heier’s arguments about the economy:
– We have renewed the Armed Forces on a broad front. Since 2013, the Conservatives in government have increased the defense budget from NOK 43 billion to NOK 69 billion. Last year, the Conservatives in government adopted a new long-term plan for the defense sector, which provides for a significant increase in the number of employees and soldiers, a total of over 5,000, the Conservative leader answers.
Fracture with caution
When Russia took part of Ukraine in 2014, the Solberg government reacted with fierce criticism of Russia. Heier describes this as a breach of “the more cautious Cold War bridge-building strategy”:
“The strong value-based and emotional reaction of the Solberg government, 30 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, can testify to a new generation of politicians on the right in Norwegian politics; a generation that stands high on the barricades of liberal values and principles, but which does not have as strong a knowledge of how the long lines of Norwegian foreign and security policy have been practiced from the Cold War to the present day. “
– Should we not react harshly when Russia takes part of a neighboring country, Solberg asks back.
– With another line, we would risk being left alone in NATO. It could send very unfortunate signals that the gain from occupying other countries’ territory exceeds the cost, she adds.
Will not be deterred
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg often talks about the two-pronged approach to Russia, deterrence and simultaneous dialogue, but Heier says that Stoltenberg has not been heard for this in practice:
– No. Russia is not deterred. They are just provoked. It takes a lot to scare Russia into obedience outside their own living room door, says Heier.
He refers to Allied sailing in the Barents Sea in 2020: in May when Norway did not participate, and later in September when an American naval group and a Norwegian frigate sailed into the Russian economic zone.
– Such markings increase tension and reduce margins for Norway, he says.