New Norwegian Whitepaper on Defense: The Government Increases Sea, Land, and Intelligence Activity in the North

Fregatter, ubåter, korvetter og Kystvakten skal seile mer i nordområdene, skriver regjeringen i stortingsmeldingen om status og tiltak i forsvarssektoren. Bilde fra øvelsen Cold Response 2022. (Foto: Thorbjørn Kjosvold/Forsvaret).

Frigates, submarines, corvettes and the Coast Guard are to sail more in northern waters, the Norwegian government states in its whitepaper on current status and measures in the defense sector. Pictured; Cold Response 2022. (Photo: Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces)

The Norwegian defense capacity in the High North is to be strengthened through immediate measures due to facing a changed security policy context, the Norwegian government states in a new whitepaper on defense.

Just before Easter, on Friday 8 April, the Støre government presented Whitepaper #10; “Prioritized Changes, Status and Measures in the Defense Sector”, which is now to be processed by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense.

In order to a.o. “increase the national defense capacity in the High North”, the government upgrades the activities of sea forces, land forces, and intelligence in the North, as well as the Defense’s capacity to receive and support allied forces, primarily in the North.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has major consequences for Norwegian security. Russia has significant security interests in the North. That affects Norway and NATO. Maintaining influence in our immediate areas will require more from Norway in the future” said then-Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen (Centre Party) at the presentation of the whitepaper, according to a MoD press release.

An updated overview

The whitepaper describes overall security policy changes in light of the Russian attack on Ukraine and what consequences these will have for the government’s priorities in the shorter as well as longer term.

The whitepaper also reports on the current status of the realization of the long-term plan for the Armed Forces (2021-2024), which states that the situation is now not as it should be due to delays, cost overruns, and competence challenges.

Following up on this, the government wants to “consolidate and re-prioritize in order for the Armed Forces to subsequently grow and be strengthened”.

On 1 April, the government announced that it proposes a NOK 3 billion strengthening of the defense sector in 2022, and pointed to immediate measures to increase the Armed Forces’ presence in the North.

These measures, now described in the whitepaper, are to be processed in the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs as part of a larger budget proposal about economic measures following from the war in Ukraine. The Committee is to present its position on 28 April.

Measures in the North

More extensively, the government presents the following measures for the North in the whitepaper:

  • Increased maritime activity and support thereof; for better situational understanding and reaction capacity, the number of days at sea will increase for frigates, submarines, corvettes, and Coast Guard vessels in the High North. Operational support in the form of maintenance and supply preparedness is also to be strengthened.
  • Increased activity for the Army and the Home Guard: Brigade North and Finnmark Land Defense are to exercise more to improve reaction capacity, strengthen joint operational interaction and contribute to closer allied integration. Activities of the national Home Guard are also increased, and the government a.o. wants to prioritize annual training of its task forces.
  • Increased intelligence activity in the North through strengthening the Intelligence Services in 2022 above and beyond what the long-term plan has established. This is meant to contribute to better situational understanding and national control in the North.
  • Strengthening the capacity to receive allied forces: The Armed Forces’ collective capacity to receive and facilitate allied support during peace as well as in an early crisis phase is to be increased, primarily in the North. Operational areas are to be upgraded and bomb shelter capacity for planes are to be improved on selected locations. Amongst others, Andøya air base will be maintained and see increased maintenance. It was announced immediately prior to the presentation of the whitepaper that the station will serve as permanent reception base for allied forces.
  • In addition, preparations for more allied joint training in inner areas of Troms county will be made through improving property, buildings and facilities.
  • The government also announces further investigation of the extent of facilitation for training, exercises and reception of allied resources in Northern Norway.

A whitepaper is a report from the government to the Parliament (Stortinget) about issues the government wants the MP’s to discuss.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense’s work on the new defense whitepaper will end up with a proposal including a.o. the Committee’s remarks and recommendations. This proposal is then to be processed by the Storting.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.