Cablegate: Norway's Defense Policy at a Crossroads: Clarity


DE RUEHNY #1161/01 3521317
R 181317Z DEC 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 001161



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/13/2017

REF: A. OSLO 1093
B. OSLO 988
C. OSLO 382
D. OSLO 184

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Kevin M. Johnson
for reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (SBU) Norway is undergoing a philosophical, bureaucratic
and public debate on what its defense policy, obligations and
needs will be for the next five to ten years. The outcome
will have significant implications for Norway,s ability to
fulfill NATO obligations as well as its ability to cope with
the potential of increased military threats in the Arctic.
An additional factor in the debate is increased official
interest in Nordic defense cooperation, with a particular
focus on Sweden. The planned purchase of 48 new fighter
aircraft (relevant to the Joint Strike Fighter program), and
a decision on a costly fast patrol boat program top
procurement concerns. As the debate intensifies, 2008 will
be a decisive year for Norway,s defense capabilities and
strategy. It is vital that the USG speak and act clearly and
at senior levels when Norway is an outlier on key issues.
Norway is changing and USG engagement is key to avoid further
drift. End Summary

What? Soldiers Actually Shoot?
2. (SBU) Background to this debate includes a government
which rhetorically affirms NATO as Norway,s primary security
provider but which is at heart skeptical of the use of
military power in all but the most benign ways, tempted by
the idea of closer Nordic defense cooperation and includes an
anti-NATO party, the Socialist Left (SV) as a member of the
governing coalition. The vigorous internal governmental
debate over Norway,s contributions to ISAF, as well as
repeated public negative comments concerning NATO and U.S.
missile defense plans are illustrative of the general impulse
of this government (see reftels for details).

3. (SBU) The deaths of two Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan
over the past year have forced the government to finally
publicly explain why Norway is in Afghanistan. Public
support for Norwegian deployment to Afghanistan is roughly
50% but in large segments of society, and certainly in SV,
there is a strong belief that military force creates rather
than solves problems and that the military should be used
only for UN mandated peacekeeping missions. This view is
particularly prevalent among younger Norwegians who have no
direct memories of U.S. assistance during the Cold War or
WWII. This has led the GON to keep silent about Afghanistan
or to stress the development side only, implying that
&others8 do force, and Norway does reconstruction.

Flat Budgets
4. (C) Governmental skepticism of defense has been reflected
in flat budgets for the last five years, meaning in real
terms, decreases in funding. This at a time when Norway
accumulated a vast 380 billion dollar surplus in its &oil
fund8. An additional factor is that the Minister of
Defense, Anne-Grete Strom Erichsen, is one of the weakest
cabinet members. She is a former Mayor of Bergen with no
previous defense experience and is completely overshadowed in
intergovernmental debates by the strong personalities of the
Foreign Minister (Jonas Gahr Stoere), the Finance Minister
(Kristin Halvorsen, head of SV) and the Development and
Environmental Minister (Erik Solheim also SV).

Norway,s Future Defense Capabilities Limited
5. (C) In contrast to the Minister, the Norwegian CHOD,
General Sverre Diesen is very capable and well respected and
has been fighting hard to protect Norwegian defense
capabilities, to restructure the military away from a static
territorial defense to a more expeditionary force and to make
the political case for the need for the military and for
increased resources for the MOD. He headed the MOD Defense
Study (released recently along with a concurrent study
conducted by largely civilian defense experts). The studies

largely concurred with his assessments and judged future
security threats against Norway to be not invasion but an
isolated and limited use of force against Norwegian
interests, likely to be in the Arctic. In a speech on
November 26, Diesen specified further, saying that increased
Russian military activity in the Arctic could lead to such a
conflict or to the use of military power to force the
Norwegian government to change its policy on a controversial
issue. Diesen stated further that in such a situation Norway
would need to have the capability to cope without NATO
support. The Studies also called for increased cooperation
with Sweden and other countries to save money on equipment
purchases, training and exercises. (Note: MOD claims that
the fighter purchase is explicitly excluded from equipment
coordination with Sweden). Newspaper editorials called the
Studies brutally honest and compared the current funding
levels (in terms of GDP) to defense spending in the 1930s,
which was historically low and left Norway ill prepared to
deal with the German invasion in April 1940.

6. (C) The Studies reached the same conclusions on the impact
of current funding, namely that a continued flat defense
budget will require cuts in some equipment purchases, require
international cooperation to save money, the closure of many
bases and the consolidation of Norway,s joint headquarters,
and create limitations on the effectiveness of the military
both in international operations and in Norway. The civilian
defense study stated that without increases in the budget
Norway will be hard pressed to defend its interest in the
Arctic region, will be unable to respond to crises in Norway
if parts of the military are engaged in international
operations and will find it difficult to justify the
purchases of frigates, fast patrol boats or fighter aircraft
that currently are planned or under consideration. The
studies called for the purchase of new fighter aircraft and
frigates but recommended canceling the fast patrol boat
program. In recent years only the Coast Guard has seen
increases in budget and staffing. This trend would continue
with the exception of an increase in professional soldiers in
the army (a decrease in overall number would continue).
However, the funding increases for the Coast Guard have
largely been to increase capabilities for policing fisheries
and have very limited military application.
Impacting NATO's Joint Warfare Center
7. (C) The Studies recommended relocating the current
Norwegian joint headquarters in Jatta near Stavanger
(co-located with NATO,s Joint Warfare Center) to Bodo,
possibly leaving the Joint Warfare Center without sufficient
support, the closure of all but two naval bases and five air
bases and the reduction of the Home Guard. (Comment:
Relocation of the Norwegian HQ in Jatta could have a
significant impact on the Joint Warfare Center as the
Norwegians currently provide much of the logistical support.
The Norwegian MOD has promised to maintain the current level
of support).

Tough Choices and Russian Behaviour
8. (C) By presenting such a stark picture, Diesen appears to
be calling the GON,s bluff, saying in effect, if you
continue to give us insufficient support, this is what you
will get, a military without capabilities either to defend
Norway or to participate in international operations. It
remains to be seen how the GON will react to the Studies or
what revisions the Minister of Defense and Parliament will
make during their review and the subsequent debate on this
issue. The multimillion dollar purchase of six fast patrol
boats seems likely to be a hot political topic as the boats
are made in Norway and large amounts of money have already
been spent on this project. Recently, media reports
indicated that the head of the Navy reversed his earlier
agreement with the Defense Study and is now saying that
Norway needs to keep its MTB fleet. Recent Russian aircraft
carrier activity off Norway,s coast caused FM Stoere to joke
at a meeting attended by the Ambassador that &Russia is
helping us refute those who question our need for fighter
aircraft.8 We are watching how increased Russian activity
affects defense policy and budget debates.

Nordic Defense: Supplement or Substitute for NATO?
9. (C) Unlike the debate over budgets and capabilities,

interest in increased defense cooperation with Sweden and
Finland commands broad agreement between the GON and MOD.
Along with the favorable mention of this concept in the
Defense Studies, Diesen and the Swedish CHOD, Hakan Syren,
meet regularly and have called for closer cooperation in
speeches in the fall of 2006. Late this summer they wrote
joint editorials in leading Norwegian and Swedish papers
calling for increased formal cooperation in defense issues.
This cooperation would entail joint procurement, training,
exercises and deployments on international operations. A
recent proposal by an influential advisory body for a change
in Swedish defense policy, in which Sweden stated that it
would not be passive in the case of a catastrophe or attack
on EU or Nordic members, caused jubilant headlines in Norway
which stated that Sweden will defend Norway. Norway,s
Deputy Defense Minister welcomed the statement and said that
Norway would reciprocate. The enthusiastic welcome of the
announcement demonstrates the significant public and official
appetite for cooperation with Sweden.

10. (C) On the MFA side, the Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish
Foreign Ministers have begun regular meetings, the most
recent held in Bodo (the location of Norway,s Northern
command center) on October 10. (Note: The GON briefed that
Russian bombers flying just outside Norwegian air space
simulated what appeared to be a cruise missile attack on Bodo
the day of the Nordic Minister,s meeting.) Increased
defense cooperation with Sweden is welcome by the GON as it
sees Sweden and Finland as countries with experience in the
North (read with Russia) who share the same rough political
ideology. In particular SV strongly supports closer defense
ties to Sweden, which in their view could weaken NATO ties.
On the opposite side of the political spectrum the
conservative Progress Party also welcomes increased ties with
Sweden based on the belief that security cooperation would
strengthen Norway's territorial defense. It is clear that
relations with Russia form a substantial rationale for
increased Nordic cooperation along with the publicly stated
goal of increased savings on military purchases. MFA
Political Director Kai Eide tells us increased Nordic
cooperation is easier now because Sweden and Finland are
close partners with NATO, arguing that this initiative brings
others closer to NATO rather than drawing Norway away.

11. (C) Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere has made repeated
speeches welcoming increased Nordic cooperation and has
entertained several high- level Swedish industry delegations.
In past public comments Stoere took pains to state that NATO
remains the anchor of Norway,s security. More recently he
has spoken of the unique potential for Nordic defense
cooperation, calling great power objections relics of
history. In a recent December conference Stoere stated that
the GON sees NATO as a strategic &hedge8. According to
Stoere,s and Diesen,s public comments, Norway would like to
develop, in cooperation with Sweden and Finland, joint
participation in international operations, joint procurement
of increasingly expensive military equipment, and joint work
to increase the focus on northern issues in NATO, the UN and
the EU. There has been less mention of cooperation with
fellow NATO allies Denmark and Iceland, who would be perhaps
more natural partners in the Arctic, but lack Sweden and
Finland's expertise and long experience with Russia.

12. (C) In private conversations with the embassy, MFA
Political Director Kai Eide stated that Norway,s interest in
Nordic Defense Cooperation is to encourage others to
participate in joint operations in Afghanistan. Eide also
stated that Finland is more interested in broad defense
cooperation than in joint operations. He mentioned that
Russian embassies in the region have expressed concern that
the Nordic initiative is aimed at them. Other Embassy
contacts have reported that they heard Eide mention privately
that the GON,s interest in increasing contacts with Sweden
and Finland is to somehow take advantage of those countries,
knowledge of Russia and access to the Russian economy.

Return to the Sagas: Norwegian Defense of Iceland?
13. (U) After the U.S. withdrew its presence at the Keflavik
airbase, the Icelanders asked Norway and other NATO allies
for help in providing air surveillance. Norway was willing
to cooperate and signed a security agreement with Iceland
committing them to hold joint exercises on Iceland annually

and to help monitor the busy sea-lanes off Iceland,s coast.
The first joint exercise under this new agreement, named
Northern Viking, was held this year and included U.S.,
Norwegian, and Danish forces. Despite some Icelandic claims
that Norway has now taken over responsibility for the defense
of Iceland, the Norwegian agreement was very clear in
restricting its role with Iceland to peacetime operations,
including joint exercises and training and periodic visits by
Norwegian forces to Iceland. It specifically does not
include security guarantees or basing arrangements.

Implications for the Joint Strike Fighter
14. (C) Any discussion of closer Norwegian-Swedish defense
industry cooperation inevitably brings up the ongoing Swedish
campaign to sell the Gripen fighter to Norway. Norway is
considering the purchase of Gripen, Eurofighter or the Joint
Strike Fighter (JSF). Sweden has conducted an aggressive
marketing campaign, promising a wide range of industrial
cooperation and dominating the media coverage of the fighter
competition. The Embassy has been concerned that the Swedish
effort is intended to change the rules of the competition
away from a discussion of the needs of the Norwegian Air
Force to one over the desirability of closer defense and
industrial cooperation with Sweden. The MOD assures us that
their recommendation on which fighter to purchase will be
based on a competition among all three competitors in which
the planes, abilities, the industrial compensation package
and the needs of the Air Force are the primary factors.
Diesen has publicly stated (and others have privately
claimed) that the fighter competition is separate from his
proposals to increase cooperation on defense procurement with
Sweden. Despite these statements many in Parliament and the
government will be eager to push the debate towards a
discussion of a closer relationship with Sweden vs. a closer
relationship with the United States. This debate has already
begun in the media with political cartoonists and editorial
writers enjoying the chance to cast a technical debate over
fighter planes into a debate over strategic orientation.

Conclusion: Looking for Security and Ideological Comfort
15. (C) Comment: FM Stoere realizes the need for continued
close security ties to NATO and the U.S. but at the same time
is uncomfortable with the direction of U.S. and NATO security
policy. His evolving public comments indicate the GON is not
looking to replace NATO but seeks additional partners in
security which are a better ideological match with the GON
and can balance the U.S. heavy NATO alliance. One example is
Norway's increased defense ties with the EU and its
participation in the EU Nordic Battle Group, despite being a
non-EU member. Cooperation with Sweden and Finland offers
both the possibility of savings on equipment purchases and
the chance to work with likeminded nations who prioritize UN
involvement, favor peacekeeping over peacemaking and who are
concerned about Russia. Stoere's coalition partners from SV,
of course, are unabashedly anti-NATO and anti-defense.

Implications for U.S. Policy
16. (C) The decisions made by the GON on the Defense
Studies, recommendations on funding, the purchase of new
aircraft and on its relations to its neighbors will have a
significant impact on Norway,s ability and desire to meet
NATO commitments and spark a reassessment of Norway's defense
policies. We expect Norway's move toward Nordic cooperation
and preference for UN mandated peacekeeping missions to
remain, even if the current government does not win the 2009
election. This tend combined with a general antipathy to
missile defense, efforts to ban cluster munitions, focus on
disarmament instead of non-proliferation and reluctance to
use its vast energy wealth to fund defense spending open
questions regarding Norway's commitment to be a serious and
dependable ally. Thus, despite continued close and
productive military to military relations, the GON,s actions
and long-term trends bear watching in NATO and bilaterally.
In this atmosphere it is more vital than ever that we speak
and act clearly and at senior levels when Norway is an
outlier on key issues. Eager to act more independently but
loathe to be seen as weakening trans-Atlantic ties, the GON
will listen and respond when confronted. Assuming generally
common interests and policies, however, would be a mistake.
This is not the Norway many remember, and failing to make

clear our objections will encourage more drift. End Comment

© Scoop Media

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