Norway will contribute a frigate, a submarine and six fighter jets to NATO's new showcase project “Four 30s”, which is intended to boost the alliance's responsiveness.
The Norwegian contribution was announced by Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen of the Conservative Party, when he arrived at the NATO meeting in Brussels. According to him, Norway will initially provide a limited contribution, but will increase its endeavour in the years to come.
“We have announced that we are in a major transition. Eventually, we will have other capacities,” Bakke-Jensen said, as quoted by the news outlet Resett.
While NATO Secretary General and former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg previously made it clear that all allies must contribute to the response force, no new forces will be created in Norway.
“It is not about us deploying a frigate at some geographical location in the world on behalf of NATO. It's about being alerted that if NATO needs it, then we have a frigate that is operational and able to participate,” Bakke-Jensen explained.
The defence minister made no secret that it would have been much easier for his country to contribute, had the frigate KNM Helge Ingstad not sunk. Earlier this week, the Norwegian Armed Forces decided against repairing the frigate, which sunk in the aftermath of the major NATO drill Trident Juncture, assuming that it would be cheaper to build a new one. This loss has left the Norwegian fleet with only four frigates.
At the same time, the gradual introduction of F-35 fighter jets to the Norwegian air force will leave its capacity weakened over the next few years.
Last week, Norwegian Chief of Defence Haakon Bruun-Hanssen admitted that the Norwegian Armed Forces won't be able to meet all of NATO's expectations, citing the very same problems within the navy and the air force.
“Our forces are so little in scope that we will be challenged, unless we don't 'double-mark' forces standing in national preparedness and NATO's rapid reaction force”, Bruun-Hanssen told the newspaper Verdens Gang.
At the same time, Norwegian Prime Minister and Bakke-Jensen's fellow Conservative Erna Solberg admitted that she cannot guarantee that her country meets NATO's spending goal of 2 percent of GDP.
“We are working on the long-term plan, and I can't say what is realistic and what isn't. Anyway, is a large gap to fill, and in addition we must be sure that we use every penny sensibly,” Solberg told the daily newspaper Klassekampen.
In 2019, Norway's defence expenditure is expected to reach 1.7 percent. At present, only the US, the UK and Greece have hit the 2 percent level.
Under the “Four 30s” project, which is intended to reinforce NATO's presence in a potential European crisis, the member states are required to deploy 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft, and 30 warships within 30 days.