Looking at Russia’s aggression against Ukraine we need to stand up, Norwegian Defense Minister tells The Oslo Times
Søreide has been the Minister of Defense in Norway since 2013. She is a member of the Conservative Party of Norway. She was elected as a Member of the Storting for Oslo in 2005.
She has studied law at the University of Tromso. During her educational career, she stepped into politics and joined the Conservative Party. She became a member of the Conservative Party Central Executive Committee and Chairman of the Young Conservatives of Norway in 2000. After completing her University education, she started off as a producer on Metropol TV where she worked until the TV channel was closed down. She spoke to The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar regarding Norway’s increase in funding for advanced defense system and equipment to pose a credible deterrent to Russia’s growing military presence in the High North.
Excerpts below, give us an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
TOT: May you tell us what’s your view on the remarks of Norwegian Premier Stolberg regarding increase in funding for advanced defense system and equipment to pose a credible deterrent to Russia’s growing military presence in the High North?
Søreide: I think it is due to the fact that the security policy situation has changed profoundly over the past one and half year. At the same time, we see a quite complex picture when it comes to threats. We do see the old conventional threats. And there are new threats as well. It’s really a quite complex picture. And we need to be prepared for that. That’s why we have strengthened our defense budgets over the past one and half year. And we are still undertaking reforms. My chief of defense has been in talks and sent me an email in October as an advice. We all are spending operational abilities and we need that.
TOT: Would you please tell us what is the plan of NATO and Norway in Afghanistan as there is a military drawdown? Will Norway stay behind or withdraw as militancy is still going on over there?
Søreide: Yes, yes, absolutely we intend to stay behind as long as the “Resolute Support Mission” exists. We and our allies changed our contribution when the ISAF operation came to an end. And we have a new mission now. We have our special forces in Kabul. And they are training the crisis-response units and they are going very well so far and our special forces are quite happy with the cooperation of other forces as they are working together.
TOT: What do you think about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine? Since Norway and Russia also share borders, do you see any threat to Norway?
Søreide: We have during the past decades, a much constructionist approached over Russia. We have common interests when it comes to search and rescue and people to people cooperation. I think it’s a neighbor that we have been treating with firmness and predictability during the past decades. Even though, now we have border control and military bilateral cooperation because it’s quite necessary for the peoples’ security. And when I look at Russia’s aggression against Ukraine then of course we need to stand up—we all the European allies and the United states. And we need to make sure that international law is expected. However, Russia is not respecting the international law at the moment when it takes a part of a country and change borders by force. They are causing a lot of uncertainties in terms of security and they need to return to respecting human rights and also the international law again. We don’t see any military threat to Norway from Russia right now, but we do see that they are building their military forces over some years and they continue to do so and at the same time we know that intentions can change and it can happen that’s why we need to prepare for all kinds of threats. We don’t actually see any military threat from Russia, but there is terrorism coming from different sides and we have cyber threats coming from all borders and we need to be prepared.
TOT: You talked about terrorism. Now here comes Islamic extremism and political extremism, and I am sure you know what I mean. What is the defense strategy of Norway? How Norway is fighting the elements of Islamic extremism and political extremism?
Søreide: Well, it’s really a huge question actually. We are working along multiple lines. We have actions in the past to counter extremism in Norway. And we also participated internationally. First in Iraq against ISIL. We participate with trainers and capacity builders, which is important. I can name Nordic countries that have challenged a lot of foreign fighters as they go to Syria and Iraq, where they fight and come back even more radicalized and posing a serious threat to our societies. We need to fight this along several lines—like at home, in the coalition, militarily and also politically.
TOT: My last question is regarding Human Rights. This is one particular question that we ask all our guests. So, what Human Rights mean to you?
Søreide: Human right is absolutely fundamental. We cannot do anything in a society where Human Rights are violated. Human Right has been my core political engagement since I got engaged in politics some 20 years ago. So, human right is basic to all that we do.
(Interviewed by Hatef Mokhtar, Editor-in-Chief
Written and edited by Rooh-ul-Amin, Deputy Bureau Chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan)
All Rights Reserved with The Oslo Times