Generals, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for this opportunity to present some thoughts on a very timely topic. Also, I would like to thank the United States for the initiative and for organising this year`s event. It is an important opportunity to address and discuss challenges that are central to us all and will continue to face us in years to come.
Globalization and digitalization have increased the range of ways and means available to protect and advance security and interests of states and groups of states. Some are legal and legitimate, others not, and many represent unacceptable behaviour amongst neighbours.
This is referred to in various ways: as a competition below the threshold of armed conflict, as conflicts in the grey zone, political warfare, or other terms. Nevertheless, we face these challenges every day. Not only the military, but also the whole of society, and often more so than the military. This has many dimensions. Let me address two of those.
First, this can be seen and understood as an ongoing, low-level form of strategic intimidation on its own terms, aiming to achieve objectives below the threshold of open armed conflict, falling outside of the conventional perception of how war and conflict manifest itself.
Second, the same methods and events have the potential for being, or resemble, an initial stage of a potential armed conflict, as the technology has the potential to degrade our networks and advanced military technology, create distrust and confusion, target and deter key personnel, and delay or hamper decision-making and mobilization efforts.
Thus, the distinction between peace and conflict may be blurred.
A quick run-through of the most common tools of influence shows the complexity of the issue. The tools encompass:
- Military – including large-scale exercises and force demonstrations without prior notice, posturing with nuclear and other high-end and long-range weapons, and direct action by intelligence agencies, special forces and proxies
- Influence through strategic use of information – some being conventional and legitimate, others not, like interference in other states’ politics, encouragement of polarisation and extremism, or undermining Alliance coherence
- Economy, energy and technology
- Cyber – a major concern, both as a means for intelligence, influence operations, and attacks on critical infrastructure
- Use of parts of the population in other countries for political influence and purposes
Norway has not developed formal doctrines for the management of these threats specifically, but our key points are, first, to include and protect all sectors of society, and second, to strike a balance between deterrence and reassurance. These are central and long-lasting elements of our security policy framework in which we carry out our training, exercises and peacetime activities. It is also the framework in which we develop our ways and means to meet these new challenges.
As these types of influence activities, or attacks, aim across sectors, we work to improve our Total Defence Concept, which is our concept for mutual support between civilian and military sectors. Within this concept we make available resources from civilian sectors to support the Armed Forces, or we provide support by our Armed Forces to society when required. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security is responsible for managing threats in situations short of war, and priority areas for improvement are crisis management, coordination and resilience. The Armed Forces have a supporting role in this. We train and exercise this regularly. In particular, we train with the police, with actors within the cyber domain, and with the rescue services. This system is also tested as we unfortunately are engaged in handling real events when they occur, in the range of terrorist attacks, cyber-attacks to majors accidents and natural disasters.
I will now move on to talk about deterrence in this security environment, below the threshold of armed conflict.
On October 13, our Government made its first political attribution of a cyber-attack against our Parliament. We could not accept this attack on the heart of our democracy.
We see the capability to attribute as a first and necessary step of effective deterrence. We have in recent years made significant investments in our Intelligence and Security services and will continue to improve our whole-of-society capabilities, as laid out in the Government`s Report on Societal Security to Parliament last year. The key here is both improved capabilities, and improved coordination and cooperation between various national actors and levels, and with allies.
Resilience will in many ways be our first line of deterrence and defence. It is a vital component, and will limit the options, tools and techniques available to an aggressor. To increase resilience, it is necessary to identify and resolve weaknesses and vulnerabilities in all sectors of society, probably with a particular focus on improving digital and technology shortfalls. Improving awareness, amongst decision-makers, media, and the public, will reduce vulnerability, speed up early detection, and increase the possibility for attribution.
Finally, as methods and technology continuously change and improve, more knowledge and research are necessary to keep up with the developing threat.
Working with allies and partners is a fundamental component of deterrence. Military activity in the North has increased significantly over many years, causing increased allied political interest and military presence in the North. This is a sign of Alliance solidarity, for which we are grateful, and it reflects Norwegian political priorities. We will continue cooperation with our allies to safeguard our freedom of movement and Trans-Atlantic lines of communication.
The flip side of the coin is reassurance.
We believe transparency is key to building trust and avoiding unintended escalation. Undeclared snap-exercises and large-scale troop movements have the same signature as the initial phases of a military attack. We would therefor encourage all parties to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the Vienna Document, especially when it comes to notification of military activities. Norway remains committed to arms control as well as confidence and the range of security-building measures.
Predictability and stability in the North are essential to Norway, and in our view, all parties. We have a right to defend, and to exercise defense in peacetime. We also have a responsibility to do this in ways and geographical areas that respects the interests of our neighbors. Large scale, undeclared naval exercises, far away from own waters, are a concern. Likewise, live fire missile exercises, simulated attacks, and GPS-jamming has been a concern not only for Norway but also for other countries in the region.
We are facing a complex range of security challenges, both on a day to day basis, and in case of conflict. Improved resilience and awareness will reduce the options of an aggressor, and reassurance and confidence building will hopefully reduce the perceived threat.
Together with our allies, we will deter and defend as necessary, while not forgetting the third D, namely dialogue and cooperation. Concerning Russia, we have ongoing cooperation on essential security activities, like border guard and coast guard operations, maritime security, including search and rescue and the Incidents at Sea Agreement, and political and commander-to-commander dialogue. As the COVIDsituation improves, we also hope to resume face-to-face meetings.
The activities of states below the threshold of conflict, may lead to conflict. Cyberattacks have the potential for directly or indirectly cause large-scale damage and loss of life. Another concern is the use of a combination of tools where the combined effect can be seen as an act of aggression. As we move forward to deal with these realities, we will continue to strike adequate balance between deterrence and defense, and reassurance and dialogue, also in our training and exercise posture.
Thank you for this opportunity and thank you for your attention. I look forward to your comments and discussion.