Norway's NATO representative, Deputy Admiral Ketil Olsen, has received a list of demands that the alliance has issued to the nation's armed forces, the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten reported.
"What NATO is worried about is the Armed Forces' lack of persistence, which was documented during the Trident Juncture exercise in Norway last autumn. Most of [the military capacity] Norway had was spent on receiving NATO reinforcements. We had little left to fight with. We have to become more robust, project credibility outwards and also give the population a sense of security," Ketil Olsen told Aftenposten.
Recently, Norway's standing battalions have been reduced from three to two. NATO, by contrast, wants to see a trend in the opposite direction.
"NATO is concerned that the number of battalions must be increased. Norway must have the capacity to both be able to take care of itself and at the same time participate in NATO missions abroad," Olsen explained.
Olsen stressed that the requirement for credible defence capabilities doesn't apply to Norway alone, but to all NATO member states.
According to the deputy admiral, NATO also made it clear that the frigate KNM Helge Ingstad, which met a sticky end after the Trident Juncture exercise when it collided with a commercial tanker and barely avoided a major environmental catastrophe, must be replaced. Furthermore, the alliance also demanded that Norway acquire refuelling tanker aircraft of its own for its fleet of F-35 fighter jets. This would allow the fighter jets to stay in an important area without flying back to base for refuelling.
NATO is also wondering whether the four submarines which Norway is expected to order are enough, and is sceptical of Norway's plans to scrap its motor torpedo boats (MTB), which are smaller than the frigates, but faster and have a comparable arsenal. Olsen admitted that NATO considers the MTBs a much sought-after resource.
About a month ago, Norwegian Chief of Defence Haakon Bruun-Hanssen argued that Norway's "minimum defence" was too small to fulfil its international obligations and said that its endurance and maritime forces were insufficient. Bruun-Hanssen ascribed the need for a tougher defence to "changes in the political landscape", citing Russia as one of the decisive factors.
"Russia has continued to upgrade its military capabilities. Military power is used to promote Russian interests, and the deployment of weapon systems along the western and northern borders of Russia is apt to challenge NATO's freedom of movement", Bruun-Hanssen said in his annual lecture at the Oslo Military Society.
Norway's current military spending of 1.6 percent of GDP, which is below NATO's two percent target, has earned rebukes from US President Donald Trump. In the summer of 2018, he said that Norway was the only NATO ally sharing a border with Russia that lacked a credible plan for upping its defence expenditure.
Former US Defence Secretary James Mattis called Norway "NATO's sentinel in the North".