Retired Norwegian general Robert Mood is openly defying recent claims by Justice Minister Per-Willy Amundsen that Norway “has never been better prepared” for a terrorist attack. Norway still suffers “major weaknesses” in its civilian security and preparedness, claims Mood, who thinks they’re linked to either system failure or “a serious failure to take responsibility” at the highest levels of government.
Mood, a former defense chief in Norway who went on to become the UN Special Envoy to Syria, is known for speaking out on major social and political issues, and from a position of authority. He even won the Norwegian foundation Fritt Ord’s (Free Word) annual prize for furthering freedom of expression last year, and as top military envoy to NATO, he has claimed that relations between Russia and other Western nations won’t improve until Russian President Vladimir Putin loses power.
Now he has told Oslo-based newspaper Klassekampen that he doesn’t believe an assessment of Norway’s terror preparedness made by the justice minister on the day after the terrorist attack in Manchester, England earlier this week. Minister Amundsen of the conservative Progess Party told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “we have in fact never had better preparedness in Norway than we have today.” While that may be true because of all the embarrassing revelations of an utter lack of preparedness when Norway was hit itself by the July 22nd attacks in 2011, Mood doesn’t think it means Norway is ready to respond to a new attack now.
“The claim by the minister is wrong,” Mood told Klassekampen on Friday. “Everyone you talk to on Norway’s preparedness team can tell a completely different story. It’s been claimed without doubt that we have major weaknesses within our civilian security and preparedness in Norway.”
Mood accused Amundsen of “trying to sell another picture, that we can perhaps link to the election campaign.” Norway’s conservative coalition government is up for re-election in September, under strong opposition from the left-center side of Norwegian politics.
Mood also cited the State Auditor General’s much-discussed report that’s been held under wraps by the government but leaked to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). It also cites major weaknesses in Norway’s anti-terror efforts and harshly criticizes a lack of cooperation between the Justice Ministry (in charge of Norwegian state police) and the Defense Ministry. Coordination between the police and military remains poor, according to the report, with key infrastructure and potential targets unsecured or even identified.
Preparedeness was also woefully inadequate during the former left-center government coalition led by Stoltenberg, which was the target of the 2011 attacks in Oslo by a Norwegian right-wing extremist. Mood suggests preparedness still isn’t a priority. “It can simply look like we have a serious systematic weakness in how security and preparedness is handled,” Mood told Klassekampen.
The newspaper’s report was topping radio newscasts in Norway Friday morning. Mood is now calling for a new defense commission to be established, similar to the one set up by an earlier Conservative government after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Dramatic changes have taken place around us,” Mood said, who thinks preparedness also must “lifted up” to the Prime Minister’s office and be under constant monitoring. “There are clear system- and leadership weakness in how we’re addressing this issue. A new commission addressing defense, preparedness and civilian security could take a collective view.”