“Why Norway’s Failure to Meet NATO’s Defense Spending Target is a Cause for Concern”


On Tuesday, Norway’s Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt (Ap) smoothed over a NATO flag when she was visiting Oslo City Hall ahead of the alliance’s informal meeting of foreign ministers.

The meeting, which began on Wednesday and continues on Thursday, is a crucial part of preparations before the defense alliance’s summit in Vilnius in July.

There, among other things, Nato will discuss whether the adopted goal that each member state should work to spend two percent of its gross national product (GDP) on defense should be a requirement and not a goal.

– It is important to gloat over the fact that Norway’s contribution to NATO’s budget is unreasonably low, but it is even more important to do something about it, says Iver Neumann, director of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) and an expert on diplomacy, to Dagbladet.

Jens Stoltenberg and Jonas Gahr Støre hold a press conference in connection with the NATO meeting in Oslo. Video: The ministries’ security and service organisation. Reporter: Anabelle Bruun/Dagbladet TV
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Norway far below the target

It was during the NATO summit in Wales in 2014 that the defense alliance, led by then US President Barack Obama, adopted the so-called two percent target.

Earlier that year, the war in Ukraine began when Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula and Russian hybrid forces occupied large parts of Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Since then, all NATO countries with a border with Russia have heavily upgraded, and reached the two percent target. Apart from Norway.

In 2014, Norway spent 1.55 percent of GDP on defence, according to NATO’s latest annual report. In 2022, Norway had increased the share by 0.02 percentage points and spent 1.57 percent of GDP on defence. In 2020, Norway spent exactly two percent on defence, and the reason was a corona-low GDP.

On average, Norway has spent 1.72 percent of its GDP on defense since the target was adopted.

– It is quite clear that the Norwegian authorities have trained this, and not done their job. It borders on embarrassing, because it also has a symbolic effect, says NTNU professor Jo Jakobsen, an expert on international politics, to Dagbladet.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a panel discussion with Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt in connection with NATO’s meeting of foreign ministers in Oslo. Video: Reggeringen.no.
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Blame GDP

Earlier in May, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap) came out and announced that Norway will meet NATO’s two percent target.

I 2026.

It is “demanding” for the Norwegian authorities to manage defense budgets according to NATO’s two percent target because Norway’s GDP “fluctuates more” than other countries’ GDP, according to Støre.

- Putin made two big mistakes

– Putin made two big mistakes

Because Norway’s oil and gas revenues in 2022 were extraordinarily high, the percentage therefore decreased from 1.75 per cent in 2021 to 1.57 in 2022.

Although she didn’t exactly use it of the words, Erna Solberg (H) and her government also argued similarly in their two periods of government.

Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfelt refuses to answer questions about who should become the new Secretary General of NATO. Video: The ministries’ security and service organisation. Dagbladet TV.
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– Looks at us strangely

The retired lieutenant general Arne Bård Dalhaug calls the arguments an excuse founded on a logic that is difficult to understand.

– It’s an argument that nobody really understands. In practice, they say that Norway earns so much money that we cannot afford to reach the target. It is an excuse that makes other NATO countries look at us strangely, says Dalhaug.

The former defense chief is supported by NTNU professor Jakobsen, who believes the argument “crosses the line to become a non-argument”.

- Ready to fight tonight

– Ready to fight tonight

– It is an argument that makes no sense. All countries relativize in relation to their gross domestic product. If we compare ourselves to other countries with the same degree of development, their defense budgets have risen at a different rate, says Jakobsen.

He calls it “unfortunate on several levels” that Norway has not invested more in defence.

– Not least in a hypothetical situation where there would have been a need to defend Norway, says the NTNU professor.

Russia has summoned a US senator for making Russophobic statements. A video from the meeting reveals the truth. Video: NTB, Telegram, Reuters. Reporter: Håvard TL Knutsen.
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Huge gap

The former defensive top Dalhaug also thinks so. He is of the opinion that Norway should spend far more money on defense than two percent of GDP – partly to make up for a well-documented backlog, partly to equip itself – and refers to the report from the Defense Commission.

The day after Prime Minister Støre announced that the government will meet NATO’s two percent target by 2026, by spending an additional NOK 3.8 billion annually, the Defense Commission published its report.

Attack in Russia: - Legitimate right

Attack in Russia: – Legitimate right

The contrast was huge.

The commission, led by Støre’s party colleague and former government colleague Knut Storberget, recommended that the government increase the defense budget by NOK 30 billion immediately. The commission believes that the defense budget should then be increased by a further NOK 40 billion in extra allocations over ten years.

– The Defense Commission comes up with a harsh description of how bad the situation is in several areas, says Dalhaug.

Retired lieutenant general Arne Bård Dalhaug about the Norwegian two percent target for NATO. Reporter: Edward Stenlund / Dagbladet TV.
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The expert puzzled

The retired lieutenant general is surprised that Norway has not reacted more precariously to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Dalhaug refers in particular to Sweden and Finland, which stated their historical neutrality in favor of Nato and the alliance’s collective defense umbrella.

– There was a dramatic change in how they view security policy in Europe. It actually surprises me a little that we haven’t had a more extensive debate about this in Norway, says Dalhaug.

However, in areas other than the size of the defense budget, Norway should be honored, Jakobsen believes. The NTNU professor points in particular to Norway’s former NATO contribution to Afghanistan and Norway’s current NATO contribution to Lithuania.

The NATO meeting in Oslo: New flight ban

The NATO meeting in Oslo: New flight ban

– In addition, Norway has signed base agreements with the American authorities. They give the US access to Norway, which in itself is geographically important. It has given Norway a somewhat freer role, says Jakobsen.

During NATO’s upcoming summit in Vilnius, Prime Minister Støre and Foreign Minister Huitfeldt will nevertheless not avoid the fact that the other NATO countries bordering Russia have greatly upgraded their equipment, the NTNU professor believes.

– It is potentially problematic. The symbolic effect is negative, but to try to smooth over this, Norway will claim that they do a lot of other things, says Jakobsen.

2023-06-01 04:54:30
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