"Norway is safe," Jonas Gahr Støre reassures from border to Russia

By admin - February 22, 2024 The Independent Barents Observer
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During his visit to the border town of Kirkenes this week, the government leader time and again stressed that Norway is safe and that Norwegians should not be worried about war in their country.

In an address at the Kirkenes Conference, the prime minster sought to smoothen public concern about a possible escalation of Russian aggression.

Jonas Gahr Støre in Kirkenes. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

“We should not fear that we face a war in Norway, and this is important to say because children and youth follow the debate and expect that we speak truthfully and that we choose our words in a right way,” he said.

In a comment to the Barents Observer, Støre underlined that “we do not see any direct military threat against Norway today.”

Støre also agued that Norway should proceed a policy of reassurance, not only deterrence, and that the country’s self-proclaimed military restrictions in the border areas are “wise and reasonable.”

According to the restrictions established in the Cold War period, there should be no allied NATO training or deployment in Eastern Finnmark.

“Our defense must be strong in the north. But I think we have been wise and reasonable about the way we have organized our defense near the border,” he told the audience at Kirkenes Conference.

He also reiterated a hope that Russia ultimately one day will return to the international community as reliable partner.

Støre has been in Kirkenes on a big number of previous occasions. Several of them together with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Back in the years before 2010, the two men were instrumental in negotiating the delimitation of a disputed area in the Barents Sea.

Now, relations are in shatters, and Støre admits that it makes a “big personal impression on him” to see the transformation of Lavrov and the regime.

The Norwegian prime minister arrived in Kirkenes almost directly from Germany where he attended the Munich Security Conference. During that event, Støre announced new major investments in the Norwegian Armed Forces.

 

PM Støre takes a look at the Javelin, the portable anti-tank and surface-to-air missile operated by the Jaeger Battalion. Photo: Atle Staalesen

 

In a new national four-year defense plan soon to be presented by government, a historical level of investments are proposed.

A key share of the new defense money will be invested in the north. Including in the forces that are based along the border to Russia.

During a visit to the local Jaeger Battalion, the prime minister highlighted the important role of the Finnmark Land Defense.

”[…] Here in eastern Finnmark it is first of all about making the Finnmark Land Defense adjusted to our needs, and our control and order on the border is a crucial issue,” he told the Barents Observer

“We must make sure that there are sufficient people and equipment and that tasks can be resolved in a good way,” he added.

As part of the visit, the prime minister was shown weaponry applied by the local battalion, including the newly acquired Piorun Portable Anti-Aircraft Missile System.

Norwegian Army Chief, Mayor General Lars Lervik underlines that air defense is a top priority for the Finnmark forces.

“What we recommend is more air defense, and especially air defense with longer capacity, as well as more artillery and more engineering. Most of this we already have, but we need more of it,” he told the Barents Observer.

Lervik says the Army recommends a significant strengthening of its forces in Finnmark, both along the border to Russia and especially a bit further west in the area of Porsanger.

 

Jonas Gahr Støre together with Head of the Norwegian Army Lars Ervik (right) and Commander of the Finnmark Land Defense Jørn Qviller. Photo: Atle Staalesen

 

The strengthening of capacities is well underway.

According to existing plans, the Finnmark Land Defense will by year 2028 be fully developed with about 4,000 personnel. That includes a significant number of home guard forces.

According Colonel Jørn Qviller, commander of the Finnmark Land Defense, the ground is now being prepared for a significant boost in manpower and equipment.

“We are on track,” he says to the Barents Observer.