Erna Solberg, who is on her way to the NATO Summit in Warsaw to meet the US president and fellow Head of States of NATO’s 28 member countries, told the tabloid newspaper Verdens Gang that NATO must respond Russia’s mobilization in the northern areas.
“We want no militarization of the north, but we must have naval control,” Solberg told Verdens Gang.
Earlier this week, senior researcher Sverre Lodgaard at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs pointed out that talks of Russia’s military build-up were far-fetched, as the Russian defense budget only constituted about 12 percent of the US military budget and around eight percent of that of NATO. In comparison, the Warsaw Pact had a total military expenditure of 80 percent of NATO’s when the Cold War was at its height, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK reported.
What’s even more important is that NATO continues its drive eastward. The hottest topic on the coming summit’s agenda is the establishment of a new “tripwire” rotational force of 4,000 NATO troops in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region to avert a possible Russian “aggression.” For the US and Canada to be able to deploy their forces in Europe, NATO must ensure that they can sail and fly unhindered across the North Atlantic, Solberg pointed out.
“NATO must not only think about the symbolic presence in the Baltic member states near the Russian border. It must also ensure that supply and communication lines across the Atlantic are kept open,” Solberg told Verdens Gang.
At the same time, Solberg waved aside the risk of a Russian attack on Norway.
“We have a good relationship with Russia, and we do not think they have any desire to attack us. But we are where we are doing what is strategically important for Norway as part of NATO’s long-term plans,” Solberg said.
In accordance to Norway’s long-term defense plan for the next 20 years, the government has ordered new maritime patrol vessels, new-generation submarines, as well as 52 combat aircraft. Additionally, the Intelligence Service was given the green light for a major overhaul in the North. Solberg stressed the importance of keeping things under control.
“Over the years, with good weather between Russia and the West, Norway has taken care of the alliance’s knowledge of Russia, while many other NATO countries gradually dismantled their capacity. We think that it clever to be watchful. Other countries come and contribute, they train and take part in exercises. But in end it’s only Norway that is NATO is in the North,” Solberg said.
At the NATO Summit, Erna Solberg will be joined by Foreign Minister Børge Brende, Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and the Chief of Defense Haakon Bruun-Hanssen.