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Norway's Arctic Policy (Cont.)

Today's excerpts from Norway's Arctic white paper will focus on the country's foreign and security policy in the High North. Read pages 15 - 29 on the pdf here:

3.1 The strategic importance of the Arctic

The stability of the Arctic has long remained relatively unaffected by conflicts in other areas of the world. However, current global trends are leading to growing international interest in the region and a greater focus on Norway’s strategic location. The changing security policy landscape in recent years and the melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean are also playing a part. Nor can the possibility be ruled out that increased tensions in other places will affect the

situation in the Arctic. Cooperation in the Arctic functions smoothly in many important areas. However, there have been some challenging developments relating to the defense and security policy situation. This is primarily due to Russia’s military modernization and increased activity in the north. The general deterioration in Russia’s relationship with NATO

and Western countries as a result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and involvement in eastern Ukraine is also a

contributing factor.

Russia has expanded its civilian and military infrastructure in the Arctic. It has developed new military capabilities

that strengthen its response capacity and enhanced its ability to strike targets over longer distances and with greater precision. In addition, Russia is demonstrating an ability to make use of a broader range of instruments. In

particular, the new generation of strategic submarines, new missile programs and the revival of the bastion defense concept aimed at protecting Russia’s strategic capabilities as far as the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) Gap could have major implications for NATO’s ability to keep the sea routes over the North Atlantic open. This is important to allow for Allied reinforcement of Europe in the event of a crisis.

Russia’s military build-up and military modernization pose a challenge to the security of Norway and other Allied

countries. As a result, the US and other Allies are showing a growing interest in increasing their presence in the north

in order to monitor developments in the Russian part of the region. Recently, US strategic bomber aircraft have been carrying out regular flights over the Barents Sea, and in 2020, US Navy and UK Royal Navy surface vessels conducted operations in the area for the first time since the 1980s. Allied activity and presence, including in the Arctic, is welcomed by Norway. Norway’s security and defense policy is based on the guarantee of support from Allied countries in the event of war or crisis. This support requires knowledge of the region and of what is needed to operate here. It is therefore essential that Norwegian and Allied forces train and conduct exercises both in and outside Norway. At the same time, it is important to ensure that any military activity is carried out in a way that promotes security and stability in the region.

Norway therefore considers it important to do its part to reduce tensions by ensuring predictability and transparency with regard to such activity.

As a result of climate change and the melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean, the northern coastlines of Russia, Canada and the US are gradually losing some of the natural protection provided until recently by year-round ice. This could lead to changes in threat assessments and thus military-strategic thinking. The melting of the ice also paves the way for an increase in commercial activity in the Arctic. The extent and implications of this activity will have to be assessed on an ongoing basis. A significant increase in commercial activity will not necessarily in itself have a negative impact on the security and military situation in the region.

When it comes to shipping in the Arctic, the picture that is emerging is twofold: the volume of transit traffic between

Asia and Europe along the Northeast Passage will remain low for the foreseeable future, whereas destination traffic

will rise. Russian and Chinese ambitions to transport more goods through the Northeast Passage have led to renewed

international attention to the potential advantages and disadvantages of using this route as opposed to traditional

trade routes. Russia has also taken steps to regulate foreign shipping traffic. Any discussion of the development of the Northeast Passage will need to consider the political, legal, economic and environmental aspects.

3.2 Norwegian security policy

Maintaining a balance between deterrence and reassurance vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, and subsequently Russia, has been a key component of Norwegian security policy for decades. Norway’s defense and deterrence policy is based on the maintenance of an effective national defense and the guarantee of Allied reinforcements in the event of war or crisis. Our guidelines for foreign military activity on Norwegian territory and other policies of reassurance vis-à-vis Russia serve to enhance predictability and reduce tensions. These well-established principles of our security policy will remain unchanged, but are adjusted as needed to take account of developments in the security situation.

The role played by the Norwegian Armed Forces in exercising sovereignty and authority and providing situational awareness in the north is an important element of the Government’s Arctic policy. We are strengthening our presence in the Arctic by investing in strategic capabilities, most notably F-35 fighter jets, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and new submarines. These capabilities will enhance our ability to achieve situational awareness and exercise sovereignty in peacetime and will strengthen our defense in times of war.

Allied exercises and training activity in the north are a sign of solidarity between the Allied countries. Norway attaches importance to enhancing the ability of the Norwegian Armed Forces to plan and carry out joint operations with Allied forces in the north, while at the same time maintaining and strengthening Norway’s national presence and activity in the region. Important elements of this work include ensuring that Allied countries have access to suitable areas for carrying out training and exercises in the north, promoting cooperation between Allied and Norwegian forces, and providing other support to visiting Allied forces. At the same time, it is important to seek to set clear parameters for Allied military activity in areas close to Norway in order to avoid any escalation in tensions. Continuous assessments are needed to balance these two considerations, and our approach will have to be adapted to the changing security environment.

In the increasingly complex security threat landscape that is emerging, state and non-state actors alike are using a wide array of instruments to carry out targeted, hostile campaigns, which involve both military and civilian actions. Our ability to withstand complex threats depends on good coordination and exchange of information across sectors. In addition to maintaining a good understanding of international factors that affect Norway, it is important to monitor how these factors are manifesting themselves in Norway, including in the north. The Norwegian Police Security Service has primary responsibility for following up threats at the national level, focusing on actors that may pose a threat in Norway.

The Norwegian National Security Authority plays a particularly important role in developing measures to safeguard Norway’s national security interests. Norway makes use of a wide range of instruments in its efforts to safeguard national security.

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