Professor Dr Julian Lindley-French
“Castles in the air – they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build”.
February 10th, 2024. Just back from the Norwegian Atlantic Committee’s superb annual Leangkollen Conference. The conference was great, the debate less so with a lack of urgency, realism, solidarity, but above all self-deceit permeated the debate.
First, it is ridiculous, almost morally repugnant, that Norway with its enormous sovereign wealth fund does not spend 2% GDP on defence. At the conference Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store made all the right noises but… One only must watch Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson and the lecture he gave the world on fantasy Russian history to understand NATO must confront an increasingly unstable megalomaniac with Norway on the frontline (look at a map). about the growing Russian threat to Europe’s richest country with its enormous sovereign wealth fund. And yet, Store said he ‘hoped’ Norway might spend 2% of GDP on defence by 2026 but that we all have domestic politics. Yes, Prime Minister, we in Britain also have domestic politics and yet we spend 2% partly to defend you! Just for the record was it not Norwegian NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who said 2% was the baseline not the goal of Allied defence expenditure. Oslo expects America and Britain to play a crucial role in Norwegian defence and deterrence. If Norway is not prepared to spend the minimum agreed on defence NOW why the Hell should we bother? All rich Norway is doing is transferring the cost of Norway’s defence onto broke Britain.
Second, no more NATO defence pretence, please. Admiral Rob Bauer, the Dutch Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, made an excellent speech about the vital need for a close relationship between NATO defence, deterrence and enhanced societal resilience. There was also a joke doing the rounds of the Conference. The next NATO Secretary-General must be a woman from central or eastern Europe and from a country that spends 2% GDP on defence…so it will be Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte. Rutte would make an excellent NATO ‘Sec-Gen’ apart from the minor fact that whilst he has been Dutch Prime Minister, he has done very little to strengthen the Dutch armed forces. The NATO Defence Planning Process is in danger of becoming one of the great works of European fiction because of countries like Norway and the Netherlands.