The leader of the foreign relations and defense committee in the Norwegian Parliament, Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labour Party, claimed she was “very surprised” to learn that Norway’s defense spending will dip from around 1.56 percent of gross national product this year to around 1.5 percent in 2020. NATO wants it to rise, to 2 percent.
Newspaper VG reported the numbers on Thursday but it didn’t grab many other headlines in Norway, perhaps because US officials prodding NATO members into boosting their defense spending have expressed satisfaction with Norway’s defense commitment. Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide were welcomed and even praised during visits to the White House and Pentagon earlier this month, and Norway has among the highest per capita defense spending in the alliance.
Frank Bakke Jensen, who succeeded Søreide as defense minister last fall, wrote in a letter to the Parliament that defense spending will lie at around 1.5 percent of GNP until 2024, down from around 1.59 percent last year. Huitfeldt called on Solberg to account for the decline and what she told US President Donald Trump at their recent meeting.
Jensen, meanwhile, stressed in a speech just after New Year that Norway has boosted its defense budgets “considerably” in recent years, will continue to strengthen its defense and contribute to NATO operations, the fight against terrorism and surveillance in the Arctic, and “will invest in capacity that’s in line with our role in the alliance.”