WASHINGTON — When NATO gathers in Warsaw this summer for a major summit on the future of the alliance, a top Norwegian defense official hopes to see a focus on boosting maritime capabilities.
Øystein Bø, Norway's deputy defense minister, also said it is time for Europe to "step up to the plate" with increased defense spending to counter Russian aggression, particularly in the High North region.
"The maritime domain, in our opinion, needs a particular attention," Bø said during the 2016 NADIC Norwegian-American Defense Conference here. "NATO and its allies need to invest in high-end maritime capabilities. We need to improve and control arrangements. And we need to update contingency plans for the maritime plans.
"These are key deliverables to ensure that NATO remains politically and militarily credible," he added.
The deputy minister praised the US for its commitment to Europe, citing the European Reassurance Initiative as "a huge American investment in Europeans security" that "should probably be acknowledged more clearly."
But "now Europe must step up to the plate. We must invest more in our own security and ensure more balanced burden sharing across the Atlantic."
In particular, Norway is looking for "more frequent peacetime presence of allied forces in the High North at a time when Russia has shown an interest in the region.
"Norway does not consider Russia a military threat today," according to Bø, but he said the country cannot "discount" that it represents a future threat, and hence High North investment is a must.
The Warsaw summit, coming in July, has been billed as a major step forward in the future of the military alliance. Bø indicated his belief that Russia would attempt to rattle the NATO members ahead of the meeting, citing previous major NATO meetings before which Russia flew strategic bombers or fired weapons.
"What will happen the day before the summit? I don't know," he said, adding that he does not see Russia's stance toward its Western neighbors changing in the near future.