Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen for meetings at the Pentagon today, following up on discussions they held during the NATO Defense Ministerial last month.
Enoksen, who became defense minister last month, and Austin looked to deepen an already deep relationship between the two nations.
Norway is one of the founding members of NATO. “Norway is one of our most valued and forward-leaning allies,” Austin said during his welcome. “Our defense relationship is based on our shared values and our common commitment to NATO, which we see as the essential forum for consultation, decision-making and action on transatlantic security issues.”
Climate change makes the Arctic region more accessible, and Russia, with its long Arctic coastline, is aggressively moving into the area. Russia has even placed missile systems on ice breakers. “In a sense, Norway is the alliance’s eyes and ears in the High North,” Austin said. Norway hosted NATO’s Exercise Trident Juncture in 2018. The exercise featured ground, naval and air operations north of the Arctic Circle.
“The U.S. is Norway’s most important ally,” Enoksen said. “We do not take you for granted. I look forward to developing the relationship even further.” I’m also looking forward to discussing how we can work closer together towards the NATO summit next summer.
Norway has met the NATO goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense. The country is continuing its impetus to modernize its military. Austin noted the nation is receiving the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft this week.
“We’re also grateful to you for hosting rotational deployments of U.S. troops for training and exercising in Arctic conditions, as well as for the prepositioned equipment that you’ve hosted for many years,” he said. “This cooperation has built exceptional levels of interoperability, and that serves us well when we join in security operations around the globe.”
Norway has stored Marine Corps equipment in facilities near Trondheim since 1981.
“You can see our partnership at work with the Norwegian frigate now deployed with the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, with the Norwegian F-35 fighters that exercised last month with our B-2 bombers and with the deepening cooperation between our special operations forces,” the secretary said.
Norwegian service members served alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Austin thanked the minister for his country’s help. “I especially want to thank Norway for its contributions in Afghanistan,” he said. “We will always be grateful to the brave Norwegian forces who operated the hospital at the Kabul airport right up to the very end of our common military mission. And we’re also deeply grateful for your help during the historic airlift of 124,000 people. That lifesaving mission wouldn’t have been possible without our allies and partners — including Norwegian forces and military aircraft.”
Norway shares a small land border with Russia, and constantly interacts with its neighbor in the High North. Austin said he looks forward to deeper discussions with Norwegian allies on the challenges President Vladimir Putin’s Russia presents.
“Norway follows development in Russia closely both in the East and in the North,” Enoksen said. “Norway takes our responsibility for the High North very seriously. We are concerned about Russia’s military capabilities in our neighborhood. We welcome the increased interests and activities in the High North from the U.S. and other allies.”
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