“This is necessary because we are facing a more unpredictable and aggressive Russian regime – our neighbor country. This will have consequences for both Norwegian and Allied security”, says Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor).
On Friday, an economic crisis package was introduced to the Norwegian parliament by PM Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor). It was focused on managing the situation in Norway three weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The most important measures from the government in the High North were about defense and civilian preparedness.
The government wants to ask parliament about an extra allocation of NOK 3.5 billion to strengthen the Armed Forces and civilian preparedness in 2022.
“This is necessary because we are facing a more unpredictable and aggressive Russian regime – our neighbor country. This will have consequences for both Norwegian and Allied security”, Støre says.
Expects digital attacks
He also adds that there is, at the same time, nothing to indicate that Russia wants to involve NATO in this conflict.
“Russia has already suffered major losses and tied up large parts of its military forces in Ukraine. However, the risk of Russia’s using non-military tools below the armed conflict threshold is large, also towards Norway. We should in particular expect digital attacks as well as intelligence and influence activity”, Støre warns.
This is something the intelligence services have warned against in their open briefs for years.
“We have to take it seriously now.”
Increased tension in the North
Russia has its nuclear-fueled submarines on the Kola Peninsula, near the Norwegian border. The government argues that in a heated situation, as the present, Russia will have a need to protect these forces.
“It is an adjustment we are familiar with and have seen on previous occasions with increased tension. Norway can read the situation in the North, and we have long experience in doing just that”, Støre says.
Even though the conflict is not directly aimed at Norway, tension nevertheless increases in Norway’s immediate areas and Støre says NATO expects Norwegian authorities to pay close attention as NATO’s eyes and ears in the North.
“It means that we will and must be able to monitor the Russian activity even closer. And our starting point is good. We know the High North and have long experience in operations near Russia in the High North”, the PM says.
Strengthening Nordic cooperation
The extraordinary allocation for the Armed Forces currently requested by the government a.o. aims to strengthen the Norwegian Defense’s presence in the High North.
“We are to sail more with all the navy’s vessels and we are to strengthen our abilities in monitoring and understanding the situation in the North. We will also increase the police’s ability to discover and counter intelligence threats, in particular in the northern parts of the country. We also plan for increased activity for the navy, the army and the home guard. In addition, we will increase preparedness and the endurance of the Armed Forces through purchasing equipment, ammunition and spare parts. It is absolutely necessary”, Støre says.
The Nordic defense cooperation is also to be strengthened in facing the challenges the Nordic countries now are up against.
Increase digital competence
The government also proposes an extra allocation of NOK 500 million to strengthen civilian preparedness and societal security.
“We should in particular presume that the number of digital attacks against both public and private actors may increase in the time ahead. We therefore strengthen our ability to prevent, deter and manage digital attacks. The competence to discover and manage unwanted incidents both in municipalities as well as in the private sector should be better. And this is the responsibility of us all”, the PM points out.
The government will revert with a whitepaper on digital security in 2022.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine stresses the importance of NATO membership for Norwegian security and on Thursday, NATO holds a summit to discuss the war and the Allied response.
“We have some good decades behind us. Our own immediate areas have not been much challenged. That, however, has changed now”, Jonas Gahr Støre says with gravity.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.