Norway Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide has urged NATO members to further develop their military capabilities. (Ministry of Defense)
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WASHINGTON — Norway’s defense minister says NATO members should focus on the development of military capabilities as well as on areas where the US has security interests.
Ine Eriksen Søreide, who became defense minister in October, said engagement in the Asia-Pacific region is “crucial for global stability.
“What happens in the Asia-Pacific will have global impact and could have consequences also for Norway,” Søreide said Wednesday during a speech at the Atlantic Council think tank. “Therefore we need to be engaged.”
The minister touted that Norway is sending a frigate to the US Navy’s Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii next month. It is the first time Norway is participating in the exercise.
“Our participation also sends a broader message: Norway cares about US security interests, even halfway across the globe,” she said.
US officials have been pushing NATO allies to join the Pentagon’s rebalance, or pivot, to the Pacific as the alliance withdraws from more than a decade of operations in Afghanistan.
American officials have also been pressing alliance members to invest more strategically in defense.
“We need to stop the decline in defense spending,” Søreide said. “Cuts need to be reversed. We need to agree on a way in which we, over time, can achieve the goal of spending 2 percent of our [gross domestic product] on defense and 20 percent of our defense budgets on investments.”
Søreide said investments must be made on the right military capabilities.
NATO defense spending has been a hot topic, particularly in recent months in the lead up to the alliance’s September summit in Wales and following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Søreide also laid out five key areas the alliance needs to address.
■ European countries need to better share intelligence to gain more insight into its surrounding security environment, Søreide said.
“It is a paradox that NATO seems to be caught off guard when crises such as Crimea and Georgia occur,” she said. “Our lack of sufficient situational awareness damages our credibility, it impairs our ability to provide for collective security.”
National military headquarters must be linked with NATO’s headquarters, Søreide said. This would allow countries to share information directly with NATO.
■ The alliance needs a “more robust and active command structure, which can conduct the full spectrum of alliance tasks in an effective way,” the minister said.
■ Countries also need to improve the readiness of their forces.
“[W]e should review current readiness requirements for NATO’s reaction force,” Søreide said. “Rapid reaction for NATO should mean days not months.”
■ The alliance also needs to update its contingency plans, an area in which she said progress is being made.
■ Lastly, Søreide said NATO countries need to conduct more training and exercises, based on “high-end, full spectrum scenarios.” ■