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Monday, April 22, 2024

US military cuts worry Norway

US President Barack Obama has said the US will boost its military presence in Asia-Pacific, and Norway is among NATO allies who worry that means corresponding cuts in Europe. That in turn can further delay production and delivery of new F-35 fighter jets.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday that the cuts and fighter jet delays can, in a worst case scenario, leave Norway without fighter jets in 2020, since that’s when its current fleet of F-16s needs to be phased out.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was in Washington this week for meetings with US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the F-35s were on the agenda. Eide has been directly involved in the process to select the F-35s, formerly known as Joint Strike Fighter, over other fighter jet options including the Swedish Gripen. Their purchase will amount to one of the Norwegian government’s biggest investments ever.

No concrete assurances were expected, since the European cuts themselves won’t be confirmed until the US federal budget is released in a few weeks. But Eide said it was “important to hear his (Panetta’s) personal evaluation of this weapon program and its status.”

The NATO cooperation itself was also on the agenda, and Eide said the finance crisis in Europe was the biggest challenge for NATO right now, given individual members’ budget troubles and the funding needed for NATO. The conversation will continue at the next NATO summit in Chicago this spring, in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

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