Norwegian Defense Minister: Important to have Better Dialogue with Russia

Orientering om F-16 på Bodø hovedflystasjon
Bodø Air Base:  Colonel and Chief of 132 Airwing Øivind Gunnerud (left) expands on the functions of the F16 fighter plane to Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen (Center Party) and Chief of the Joint Operation Headquarters Yngve Odlo. (Photo: Hilde-Gunn Bye)

Norway’s defense policy towards the USA will largely be the same as under the previous government, says Norway’s new Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen (Center Party) to High North News. He also stresses the importance of having closer dialogue with Russia.

“The relationship with Russia has worsened quite seriously in the post-2014 period and dialogue in the area of defense policy has been almost absent in this phase”, says Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen (Center Party).

High North News met the defense minister at Bodø Air Base Tuesday this week. Earlier in the day, Enoksen was at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and got updated about the situation in the High North.

The recently appointed defense minister says having a better dialogue with the eastern neighbor is important.

Deterrence and dialogue

“The Armed Forces are to maintain deterrence. However, there should also be dialogue. Russia is our closest neighbor in the east and it is important to have a better dialogue in all areas, including in defense policy. I hope we manage to start that dialogue and be closer in touch”, he says and adds:

“We have good dialogue with Russia in a number of areas already, such as search and rescue, and fish resources management. This is cooperation that should and hopefully can be further developed.”

In the Hurdal platform, the political program of the current minority coalition government, the Støre government announces that it wants to “strengthen foreign and security policy dialogue in the High North and establish joint meeting places to discuss security policy changes”.

Wants to strengthen northern defense

The government says it also wants to contribute to low tension in Norway’s neighborhood through Norwegian presence and through being clear, predictable and reassuring.

Enoksen adds that it is important for the new government to prioritize the Armed Forces in the North.

“We want to strengthen the Home Guard and build up the Armed Forces in the High North”, he says.

Having stable politics in the area of security and defense policy is important.  
Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen (Center Party)
Forsvarsminister Odd Roger Enoksen i F-16 cockpit
Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen in the cockpit of a F-16 fighter plane at Bodø Air Base. Colonel Øivind Gunnerud (left) is Chief of the 132nd airwing. (Photo: Hilde-Gunn Bye)

The USA has in recent years shown a significantly stronger engagement with the High North. As previously reported by High North News, a series of military branches have issued their respective Arctic strategies.

Its military presence can also be felt in Norway’s neighborhood, where American military vessels sail further north than before. American bombers also frequently operate in the area.

How do you view the increased US interest in the High North?

“The USA is our closest ally. Having a presence and training with the USA and other allies are a fundamental part of what we do to have a defense that is able to defend if and when needed. The fact that our allies want to exercise with us in our areas is a good thing”, says Enoksen.

Will this government’s politics towards the USA be different from that of the former government, for instance when it comes to military cooperation?

“It will not be significantly different from that of the previous government. There is rather broad agreement between most parties in the parliament, Stortinget, when it comes to defense politics. Having a stable policy in the area of security and defense policy is important. However, there may be some differences; we do for instance want to build up more in the north. Nevertheless, we agree when it comes to the relationship to the USA.”

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