NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg left Norway after last week’s visit to his homeland with promises of bigger defense budgets, more personnel and maybe even a contribution to NATO’s missile defense. It’s all estimated to cost Norway at least an extra NOK 17 billion (USD 2.2 billion) per year.
He ended his visit with a working lunch at his former home in Oslo, the residence of the prime minister that’s now occupied by the political rival who beat him in the 2013 election, Erna Solberg. She and Stoltenberg met reporters afterwards and Solberg confirmed more defense spending.
She also said that Norway will send staff to NATO’s new command and control centers in Estonia and Latvia. Norwegian officers will also be dispatched to NATO’s main operation in Poland.
‘Reminded’ of commitments
As Stoltenberg makes the rounds of visiting the governments of NATO’s 28 member nations, his main job is to “remind” them of the commitment they all made at last year’s NATO summit in Wales, to boost spending to 2 percent of GNP. Newspaper Dagbladet reported the budget increase will amount to NOK 17 billion a year, according to a study by the defense department’s own research institute (Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt).
And then comes the possibility of specific contributions to the missile defense. “We are a member of NATO and have been part of approving (the missile defense),” Solberg said. “We are now going through the issue to see what can be our contribution.”
It was a day of reunions with former party fellows and rival politicians as Stoltenberg paid official calls at the Royal Palace, the Parliament and Solberg’s home. He started the day in a meeting with Finance Minister Siv Jensen, one of Stoltenberg’s former Labour-led government’s toughest critics. There were smiles all around now, as Stoltenberg in his new role also met with the president of the Parliament Olemic Thommessen, of the Conservatives, and with the parliament’s defense- and foreign relations committee, where he got more promises of bigger defense budgets. It’s led by former party fellow Anniken Huitfeldt of Labour, however. She wouldn’t commit to any specific sums but told news bureau NTB that “most all parties in Norway have high ambitions for defense.”
Stoltenberg said he appreciated all the “positive signals” he got in Norway, “because that confirms that Norway backs what was decided at the summit. This is all about readjusting and financing NATO’s and Norway’s defense and in addition, investing in our common security.”
Stoltenberg also took some time to stroll through the city on an unusually sunny afternoon, where he was greeted as usual like a rock star. He also posed for photos with excited passersby, now with security guards keeping close watch.