On Thursday and Friday, Lieutenant General Yngve Odlo, Commander of The Norwegian Joint Headquarters, visited the Governor of Svalbard, Lars Fause. "In an uncertain time in Europe, it is even more important that the State shows a clearer presence in Svalbard," says Fause.
The last time Commander of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters (NJHQ) Lieutenant General Yngve Odlo visited Svalbard was in February last year.
Then, the visit was about acquiring a sufficient understanding and an overview of the situation in Svalbard so the Norwegian Armed Forces could exercise their national responsibility in the region.
Last week, Odlo repeated the trip to "maintain and continue to build a relationship with the Governor of Svalbard."
"Not everything can be solved digitally. It is a long way from the mainland to Svalbard, and there are some critical vulnerabilities that one must be aware of and discuss", says Odlo, according to a press release from the Norwegian Armed Forces.
Governor Lars Fause believes there has been a positive development in the work done since the last visit.
Being confident and aware that this is a Norwegian island is important.
"We have discussed the needs that lie here and how the Armed Forces can solve them within civil powers of attorney. We have reached the milestones we had set for ourselves and will now continue the work," says Fause.
Odlo says it is important that the military takes responsibility for sharing information from the Armed Forces.
Conscious of Norwegian sovereignty
Fause adds that during these uncertain times in Europe, it is even more important that the State shows a clearer presence on Svalbard both through the police and State administration.
"And that the Armed Forces are involved in order to safeguard Norwegian sovereignty. These are different times, so being confident and aware that this is a Norwegian island is important. And that we can follow up on Norwegian laws and regulations that apply here", says Governor Fause.
Odlo believes that climate change is increasing access, traffic, and interest in understanding the Arctic, and in that case, Svalbard's geographical location is important.
"It is important to be aware of critical vulnerabilities, take the necessary measures, and, as in the rest of total defense, the civil and military parts must work seamlessly together, both in peace, crisis, and war. It is a complex picture that is important to discuss," says the Lieutenant General.
Svalbard is an important part of Norway, and Odlo emphasizes that it is only natural to assist the Governor through established support and assistance regimes along the same lines as on the mainland.
"These are demanding times, and it is important that the civil and military resources work together to secure our values," he emphasizes.
But Svalbard has some peculiarities, so a common perception and understanding of the situation is crucial.
The Governor says the two days together with Lieutenant General Odlo have been valuable.
It is important to be aware of critical vulnerabilities, take the necessary measures
"A very valuable visit and meeting to put me in a better position to carry out my duties as Chief of police and Governor, and not least to be the Government's highest representative on the island," says Fause, and emphasizes how dependent the Governor is of ongoing contact with, for example, the Coast Guard.
"The Coast Guard is our closest tangible resource regarding supervision, control, and preparedness. The second is to be able to get assistance from the Armed Forces through the civil assistance instructions that the Chief of police has," says Fause.
HNN has previously written that the Norwegian Navy annually sends at least one frigate to the sea areas around Svalbard to patrol and build its own expertise in the areas and climatic conditions.
The annual frigate mission serves as a supplement to the Coast Guard's patrolling. It is usually coastguard ships that ensure a Norwegian presence in the waters around the Svalbard islands of Spitsbergen, Bjørnøya, and Hopen, as well as the polar island of Jan Mayen.
Through the Svalbard Treaty, Norway has undertaken not to establish a permanent military fleet base or fortification on Svalbard.