It's Time to Boost NATO's Maritime Profile: Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide
By Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide
Dec 21, Oslo: This has been another demanding year for Europe. ISIL's terrorism has reached Europe in a devastating way. We are facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. As we are entering 2016, we are also beginning to grasp the long-term consequences of the tumultuous events of 2014. Russia's actions continue to affect its neighbors, including a number of NATO allies and partners.
To deal with the scale, scope and acuteness of the new security situation, trans-Atlantic unity is more important than ever. US leadership is both desired and necessary, but Europe must also take more responsibility for its own future. In times like these, trans-Atlantic solidarity and cohesion — with NATO at its core — is as important as ever.
Norway has a special interest in the strategic climate in the North. There is an increase in maritime activities across NATO's area of responsibility, from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. We are facing military-strategic changes with potentially far-reaching, long-term consequences. Russia has developed new high-end military capabilities, including strategic submarines and aircraft, and long-range, high-precision missiles. Russia has also expanded its military infrastructure in the Arctic. While Norway does not consider Russia a military threat today, we cannot discount that these military capabilities can pose a challenge to trans-Atlantic security in the future.
We need to raise NATO's profile in the maritime domain. This requires maritime power and presence. Regular training and exercises are also necessary to give us the knowledge and skills we need to operate in this domain. NATO's maritime forces need to be able to establish sea control in NATO's area of responsibility to ensure freedom of navigation. They also need to ensure that sea lines of communication are open for supply and reinforcements in crisis or war.
This requires high-end maritime capabilities, situational awareness, updated contingency plans and collective contributions to NATO forces in the Atlantic.
Furthermore, reassurance initiatives in the East are important and have had a stabilizing effect, but we should develop a strategic framework for deterrence and reassurance beyond the temporary means. Deterrence and reassurance are back as key concepts in our security policy. For NATO to be politically credible it needs to be militarily capable.Given the new security environment, we need to be able to operate in air, on land and at sea. The way forward is doctrinal and technological interoperability among systems, domains and countries.
As we prepare for the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw, we must assess the new security environment as it is, not as we wish it were; we must think strategically while acting immediately; and we must revitalize the trans-Atlantic link in both political and military terms.
In short, NATO needs a coherent and robust long-term strategy to deal with the new security environment. A key element of that strategy must be maritime power and presence.
Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide had this story written for the Defence News Outlook 2016 - perspectives from global thought leaders.
The Oslo Times