Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was among those feeling relieved and optimistic at a unifying NATO summit in Madrid this week, not least after Sweden and Finland were cleared for NATO membership. He’s already invited leaders of all the Nordic countries to a summit of their own in Oslo later this summer, to further develop cooperation within defense and foreign policy.
“I feel a great sense of relief,” Støre told Norwegian media shortly after it became clear that Turkey had finally agreed to accept Finland and Sweden as members. Turkey had been the only hold-out among NATO’s 30 current members, all of which must agree on approving new members. Turkey, Finland and Sweden ironed out their differences over Kurdish issues, allowing the proposed NATO expansion to move forward.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister himself, has been among those calling the NATO summit “historic.” Not only are the formerly neutral Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, NATO members are also moving forward with a major strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank. It comes in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February that set off a new war in Europe.
News bureau NTB reported how Stoltenberg also thinks NATO will now go through its greatest “overhaul of our collective defense” since the end of the Cold War. In addition to Sweden and Finland now being formally invited to join the alliance, NATO members have agreed to place more troops and store more weapons in member countries in the east. Many NATO members share a border with Russia and feel a need for heightened defense after Putin showed how far he’s willing to go after challenging Ukraine’s sovereignty. Some former members of the old Moscow-based Soviet Union now worry that Putin may try to invade them as well.
More NATO forces will also be placed on a high level of preparedness and the alliance is forming a new “strategic concept,” which one Norwegian defense analyst calls NATO’s “most important political document.” Karsten Friis, senior researcher at the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI, told newspaper Dagsavisen this week that it “defines” how NATO views Russia, China and other major defense issues. It’s the first major revision of it in 12 years.
Stoltenberg, widely praised for his ability to enforce and boost cooperation among NATO members, claimed the summit is resulting in a “fundamental shift” that’s making the alliance more unified than ever. “It’s clear (to all NATO members) that if Putin wins now, it will represent a security threat for Ukraine and Europe in the years ahead,” Friis said. Ongoing security in Europe, he added, “utterly depends on the willingness of NATO members to send weapons to Urkaine.”
Sending more weapons to Ukraine
There was also agreement on that issue, with Norwegian Prime Minister Støre confirming that Norway and Great Britain are among those cooperating on sending long-range precision artillery (so-called MLRS) to Ukraine. Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said the artillery has a range of up to 80 kilometers, and Norway is also donating 5,000 grenades to Ukraine.
“We must continue our support for Ukraine so that its people can continue their fight for freedom and independence,” Gram said. “More weapons are needed.” He described the weapons as being able to be fired with precision over long distances “and therefore represent a considerable contribution.”
Former Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg was also among those hailing results coming out of the NATO summit in Madrid, especially the breakthrough that will bring Sweden and Finalnd into the alliance. “This is a very important day for Norway,” Solberg said. When Turkey removes its veto, “the road is cleared for Sweden and Finland,” Solberg told NTB.
Russia seemed to be responding with a hacker attack on Norway Wednesday morning, according to Norwegian authorities. Websites for both the state labour authority Arbeidstilsynet and BankID, which facilitates much of Norway’s online banking, were both experiencing operations difficulties.
Several other key Norwegian sites including the police, the foreign ministry and state welfare agency NAV were allegedly targeted by the Russian hacker group Killnet, which put out a statement announcing the equivalent of “Good morning Norway! All divisions to battle stations!” A photo of Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt was altered to make her look like the evil Malificent in a Disney fairy tale and movie. Websites in NATO member Lithuania were also reportedly under cyber attack.