Norwegian Security Policy after the Cold War
Despite widespread diplomatic discussion, and sentiment that the UN Security
Council must be expanded in order to maintain its long-term legitimacy, no
generally acceptable formula for expansion has emerged. Concerns for obtaining
or retaining voting power, and for preserving a body structured so as to be able
to take prompt and effective decisions, have prevented agreement. This article
reviews various criteria for evaluating restructuring proposals, and suggests a
formula that, while not fundamentally affecting the distribution of power on the
Council, might satisfy many states’ minimal requirements for an acceptable
package of changes.
The end of the Cold War between East and West has strengthened Norwegian
security, which makes Norway no different from most other European countries.
There are now more dimensions to security policy than there were when the
overriding aim was deterrence by means of one’s own and allied military forces.
Cold War perceptions of military threat no longer exist. In Norway’s particular
case, however, it is possible to talk about a remaining strategic threat, when
referring to Russian deployments in the far north. Such a threat is only a
potential one and is not imminent today. Yet it has to be acknowledged that wars
between nations and ethnic groups have hardly been abolished. As a result, it
has become more difficult to identify the risk of armed aggression directed
against Norway The risk would seem to reside in the escalation of a whole series
of completely different political developments. For example, these eventualities
could take the form of the emergence of a nationalistic dictatorship, or the
development of ungovernable political chaos in formerly communist countries.
Because of the existence of some very large arsenals and supplies of military
equipment, it is important to judge the political aims of potential opponents.
These can change over time, not least if they represent irrational and
aggressive attitudes. The nuclear weapons of the great powers do not seem to
have any deterrent effect on “violent ethnic cleansing”, and the emergence of
armed conflicts in different areas can be difficult to predict.
But a country’s security can also be subject to something that has become more
topical after the Cold War: low level threats. These are related to some very
different types of irregular national border transgressions, for example
international crime and various forms of pollution.
The Cold War’s dominating concept, security by means of deterrence, is
complemented by the concept of collective security. This harmonises well with
the traditional Norwegian approach to security policy of combining deterrence
with reassurance. The potential enemy is also a partner. A small country has no
less a need for allies, but for different purposes.
Following the result of the Norwegian referendum in the autumn of 1994, which
rejected EU membership, the current status of Norwegian security policy can be
summarised as follows:
* We are a member of NATO
* an associated member of the WEU, and
* our Nordic neighbours are members of the EU.
For most of the period following the Second World War, Norway sought national
security through membership of NATO. Up until 1940 the key word was neutrality,
a neutrality that was well disposed towards the British. During the Second World
War Norway was occupied, whilst the legal government sought exile in London.
Norway took part in an “overseas front” on the side of the Allies. An important
Norwegian contribution to the war effort was the achievement of its large
A basic premise of Norwegian security policy is the perception of the assumed
military and strategic value of Norwegian territory for the combatants in a
great power conflict. The absence of any political conflict with Norway is the
precondition for such an offensive. War between the Nordic countries is now
looked upon as totally unimaginable and is therefore excluded from all practical
planning. The Nordic countries together make up a “security community”.
Norway was not involved in the First World War because it was mainly limited to
the European continent. It was a land war during which Norway was protected by
the British fleet at the same time as the German fleet was mainly held to its
own naval bases.
Norway was drawn into the Second World War as the result of a strategic German
invasion undertaken as part of its war against England. This war was fought on a
much wider geographic scale and also developed into a war at sea. Norway, with
its long coastline, became a theatre of war. Furthermore, Norwegian territory
was used as one of several launching points for Germany’s war against the Soviet
Union. It was the Soviet Union which later liberated parts of Eastern Finnmark
from the retreating German forces.
During the Cold War the military value of Norwegian territory increased. The
reason for this was the build-up of large sea, air, and to a lesser extent,
land-based military capacity in the Soviet North-West. Norway was regarded as
the place where NATO could lose a Third World War should the Soviet Union freely
be able to use Norwegian ports and airfields as part of the struggle to gain
military control over the Atlantic.
Another fundamental premise of Norwegian security policy is the perception that
Norway, by herself, will never be able to effectively repel a great power attack
or prevent a serious great power attempt to occupy the country.
In need of assistance
Consequently, the third fundamental premise of Norwegian security policy is that
the country is in need of military assistance from countries interested in
preventing an occupation of Norway. Since 1949 Norway secured such assistance by
means of her membership in NATO. The Second World War demonstrated that Allied
help has to be agreed upon and preparations for it made in peacetime, if it is
to be effective. The NATO alliance has fulfilled this need.
But even during the Cold War, Norwegian security was not assumed to be so
vulnerable as to necessitate the deployment of foreign, allied troops on
Norwegian territory. The political and military cooperation in NATO was assumed
to form an adequate basis for deterring any peacetime attack. It also provided
the basis for Norwegian base policy which was formulated in response to a Soviet
approach before Norway became a NATO member. The government decided that Norway
should not open bases for the armed forces of foreign countries unless the
country was under attack or under threat of attack. For Norway, it became an
important diplomatic instrument to be able to warn that, should there occur
Soviet diplomatic or military coercion which might be interpreted as a threat or
an attack, the Government could retaliate by enlisting the allied armed forces.
Norwegian security policy became a tightrope-walk between deterrence and
reassurance. Deterrence was to make it clear that it would be too dangerous to
attack Norway, because the military power of the alliance could be deployed
against Soviet territory. Reassurance might serve to show the Soviet Union that
Norwegian policy stood firm as long as the country was not provoked.
In this way Norway has been able to conduct a stable and effective low-tension
policy based on predictability.
The threat is removed
The end of the Cold War has also removed the threat of a Third World War. It has
altered the perception of threat for all countries. On this point Norway is no
exception. Furthermore, it is official Norwegian policy to state that the
country is not exposed to any threat of military attack.
Norwegian authorities do talk, however, of a transition from strategic to
political risk. It is said that one is faced with a dilemma where the most
dangerous risks are regarded as the most unlikely – but where those which affect
Norway more indirectly, carry a much greater degree of probability.
Norwegian security is dependent on international peace, stability and security.
Because of modern communications, geographic distance no longer affords
protection. A first line of defence consists of all actors in the international
arena – whether states or organisations – respecting those norms of political
behaviour which promote peace and toleration. But as the security policy
challenge is also inherent in domestic political developments, it is important
that political chaos and conflict do not emerge. An important perception, which
Norwegian authorities share, is that democratic progress in states which earlier
were non-democratic is conducive to peace and stability. The preconditions for
democracy are the sharing of power and a certain degree of economic
privatisation. The conflicts in the former Soviet Union and the former
Yugoslavia, which demonstrate an inclination towards violent ethnic cleansing,
have been the focus of considerable attention.
Norway, in common with other countries, recognises two important principles. The
first is that national borders cannot be violated and can therefore only be
changed by peaceful means. The second is that human rights must be respected.
Norway is also an adherent of the principle that European security is
incompatible with claims for ethnically clean states.
Developments in Russia represent nonetheless the most vital challenge for
Norwegian Foreign and Security Policy. Norway cannot exclude the possibility of
a serious setback in Russian politics. In consequence of this, efforts to draw
Russia more closely towards the democratic cooperation in Western European have
been declared to be of vital interest for Norway. Regional predecessors of this
are the Barents Cooperation, established in 1993 and the Baltic Sea Council
which was set up in 1992.
In the opinion of the Norwegian government, it would have been easier to
integrate Russia had Norway chosen to become a member of the EU along with
Sweden, Finland and Denmark. It is more of a problem to be left alone with the
Russians in the far North. A small state does not feel safe as the isolated
neighbour of a superpower. In order to prevent the development of a “Big Brother
complex”, Norway is interested in not being regarded as an isolated country but
as part of a larger community. For this reason non-Nordic countries are also
welcome in regional cooperation.
The establishment of the cooperative bodies in the Barents Region can be looked
upon as Norway’s most important single contribution to European East-West
politics since the end of the Cold War. Norway is also interested in further
promoting Arctic cooperation by setting up a separate cooperating council which
will be open for all countries with Arctic frontiers.
It is also of importance that Russia, with its Soviet inheritance, is Europe’s
largest military power in both nuclear as well as conventional terms, and that
the political changes in the wake of the Cold War have resulted in a
proportionally larger share of Russian arms being deployed in areas bordering on
Norwegian territory. North-western Russia has become the most important base for
Russian naval forces, including the naval component of the balance of terror.
The withdrawal of Russian forces from Central Europe and the former Soviet
republics has led to an increase of forces in areas close to Norway.
Even if Norway accepts that European peace and security have been strengthened
after the Cold War, the country is keen to ensure that it does not become
marginalised in Allied security policy as a result of the Alliance partners
neglecting the military situation in the Far North. On a purely military level,
the Russian forces there do not represent the same kind of threat as Soviet
forces did earlier, when they were linked to an offensive military capacity in
Central Europe. This is because the Soviet forces have now been brought back
home. There now exists a more advantageous security policy situation,
benefitting Norway as well. However, even though these far northern forces are
not perceived as representing a direct threat against Western Europe, certain
worries are nevertheless expressed by Norwegian politicians regarding the
emergence of different ideas concerning shared security. This is one of the
reasons why Norway takes part in the formation of special NATO emergency forces.
The intention is to make a contribution to solidarity abroad in order to
maintain security at home.
Norway is deeply interested in already existing disarmament agreements being
respected, that disarmament continues to take place and it is extended to new
Norway does not want the CFE-agreement to be renegotiated at too early a stage.
The country is following with great interest the implementation of the START-II
agreement which reduces the number of nuclear weapons in Russia and the USA
respectively to 3000 and 3500 by the year 2003.
Furthermore, Novalja Semlja is Russia’s only nuclear testing ground. Norway is
working for a complete test ban. The country is a signatory to the Non-
Proliferation Treaty and is engaged in international efforts to prevent the
emergence of new nuclear powers.
Norway holds a prominent position in the campaign to abolish chemical weapons.
Military based pollution in north-western Russia represents a particular problem.
It is caused by obsolescence, dumping at sea and by overflowing stockpiles on
land. Norway has worked towards involving the USA in the disarmament related
pollution problems of North-western Russia, and has been allocated some of the
funds in a programme started by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar.
A considerable pollution threat, albeit a non-military one, is represented by
the nuclear power plants and other industrial instal-lations in the area, such
as the nickel smelters there. Pollution in Norway emanating from Russia is more
extensive than total pollution from Norwegian sources.
Put simply, Norway would like to see as much international cooperation as
possible in order to solve her security problems in as wide a context as
It is the Norwegian view that transatlantic relations with the USA are in a
class of their own. During the Cold War, no other country was able to play such
an important role for Norwegian security as the USA. There is still a widely-
held belief that nobody can replace the American commitment, within the NATO
framework, to ensure Norwegian security.
No other country can rival the USA’s position as the leading proponent of
disarmament, where both nuclear and conventional arms are concerned.
Within NATO, Norway has entered into a number of special agreements with the USA,
such as pre-positioning of weapons and materiel for the marines and air force
(COB), as well as other forms of explicit military cooperation. Norway has
helped limit the scope of cutbacks affecting such measures, thanks to Defence
Minister Kosmo’s effective diplomacy. But Norway has also other agreements with
other NATO countries which ensure allied support, for example the agreement with
the German-American unit NCF (NATO Composite Force).
Norway supports NATO’s new strategy and forces concept enabling it to meet
unforeseen challenges threatening member countries of the alliance.
Norway has put an IRF battalion, an air squadron and a frigate at the disposal
of NATO for immediate emergency deployment.
In the meantime, two aspects have changed.
During the Cold War, the greater strategic significance of Norwegian territory
was so considerable it was reckoned that alliance partners would quickly come to
the assistance of the country in an emergency.
The threat against Norway was then so great that Norwegian forces had but one
task – the defence of Norwegian territory.
Now, by virtue of her participation in the IRF, Norway has proclaimed her
willingness to deploy military forces, in an allied context, outside of
Norwegian territory. Moreover, this can be seen as the expression of Norway’s
new resolve to demonstrate solidarity with her allied partners abroad, in order
to strengthen security cooperation with the same partners on home territory.
From a Norwegian viewpoint, every transatlantic debate in NATO has been fraught
with a certain anxiety lest the European and the American members of the
alliance should develop such disagreements that Norway would have to choose
sides. Important strategic considerations link Norway to the USA in a special
way. However, Norway is part of Europe geographically, historically,
commercially and in other vital areas.
American policy represents two challenges. The first is demilitarisation and
withdrawal from Europe. The second is the call to Western European countries to
assume greater responsibility for their own security.
Both challenges have a bearing on how Western European NATO members organise
themselves. It is of central importance in this connection that the Western
European Union (WEU) has been chosen as NATO’s European pillar. Norway is an
associated member of WEU.
At the same time WEU has been named the defence arm of the European Union (EU).
Full membership of WEU is only open to states who are EU members. Again, it is
only EU member countries who can take part in EU’s joint foreign and security
policy (FUSP), which gives security policy a much broader basis than the purely
military. Thus the Norwegian EU question is explicitly linked to foreign policy
Norway had since the Spring of 1994 an accession treaty for EU membership, which
was defended not least from a security policy standpoint. But in the referendum
of November 28th 1994 a majority of the Norwegian people voted against
Foreign and security policy cooperation between Nordic countries has developed
rapidly following the Cold War era when Swedish and Finnish neutrality gave rise
questions of credibility. Governments looked upon such cooperation as a step
towards anticipated EU-membership for all Nordic countries (Iceland excepted).
There are, however, no indications of a Norwegian willingness to establish any
form of isolated Nordic defence cooperation. The idea of a Scandinavian defence
union was tried and rejected in 1948/49. Norway wants to remain in NATO, and as
an associated member of WEU at the very least.
But following the Norwegian people’s rejection of the EU, there is a greater
requirement to stimulate more comprehensive Nordic cooperation. Norway is a part
of the European Economic Area (EEA), and as such is a sort of economic member of
the EU, but without regular voting rights. Rejection of EU-membership does not
mean the rejection of other types of cooperation. Also on grounds of security
policy the Norwegian Government considers it important to fully exploit the EEA
agreement’s regulations and semi-annual consultations.
Norway’s support of the UN as the guarantor of international peace and security
is dependent on superpower cooperation not being paralysed by veto. Norway has a
long tradition of taking part in UN peacekeeping operations. More than 1 per
cent of Norway’s entire population has served on UN assignments. This is
probably a UN record.
After the Cold War the UN has regained much of its original strength. Norway has
extended her UN involvement by increasing the number of officers and troops on
UN alert to 2000. Norway also supports the thinking behind a greater role for
the UN by strengthening the UN’s apparatus for crisis management and operational
leadership. Norway supports the new concept: keeping the peace, which in certain
cases means a willingness to take up arms in order to restore peace.