Norway-UK Naval Cooperation and Shared Interests in the North Atlantic and Polar Regions

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Norway-UK Naval Cooperation and Shared Interests in the North Atlantic and Polar Regions

DATE: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, 20 January 2020

VENUE: Committee Room 6, House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom

SPEAKER: Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness of the Royal Norwegian Navy

EVENT CHAIR: James Gray MP, Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire


James Gray MP: I’d like to welcome you all to that meeting of the “Henry Jackson Society”, an organisation which I personally strongly support as being contributional to the current thinking and also other issues. I say that, not only because they had a promotional meeting of my book last year -it sold some copies, so thank you very much, Henry Jackson Society-. This topic is of absolutely crucial concern to all. I am James Gray, the MP for North Wiltshire and there was a number of the House of Commons Defence Committee, who chaired the enquiry into “Defence in the Arctic” and “Threats in the Arctic” a couple of years ago and I’ve been involved in these kind of issues for quite a long time. So, last year, that the Henry Jackson Society addressed themselves to witness this evening, I’m delighted to welcome apart from James Rogers, from whom we’ll probably hear later, is the Director of the “Global Britain Programme” at the “Henry Jackson”, I’m delighted to welcome Rear Admiral Engeness from the Royal Norwegian Navy who is Head of the operations of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters. So, previously, as Commander of the Coast Guard, Commander of Cyber Services and Operations, and also Commander of the Norwegian Submarine Forces.

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends, I’ll try to address some of the issues regarding the high North of the Arctic sea from a Norwegian perspective. I’ll see a little bit from its strategic background as we see it, and I will see of course the international trends which affect us and you as well. Some of the developments and changes, a small fate perspective, which is probably what you will see as a red thread through my talk, and some national dilemmas that we face in Norway, which we cannot resolve by ourselves. And also, a bit about the Norwegian and the UK cooperation and engagement over the years. Well, we can pick and choose in history, but I’ll start basically, from the time we broken of the union with Denmark and then go further on, as the Napoleonic wars broke. And I think it is important to look at the historic ties between our two countries. Yes, we are both maritime dependent, “sea fairy” nations and we are close neighbours to the North Atlantic, the Norwegian, Greenland and Barents Sea, and hence, this environment basically frames our minds, and I think the mind-set is not that different, though Norway is a small state, and the UK is a great power. And hence, both of us are supporting an international community that is rule- and law-based. And for us, such a small nation we complete independent of that. I’ll try to come back to that. And hence, the UN conventional law of the sea is essential to us and the way at least Norway operates in the maritime domain internationally. And from there we have, I think, long traditions cooperating. The recent one I the Second World War when our government and our King situated here in the UK and having a very close relationship with your government and your monarchy as well. And that relationship between the monarchies is maintained, which I think is very good for us.

A little bit remarks of strategic background: So, what is actually driving our focus and basically revamping the High North. Well, we can’t come around climate. Climate change is one of the crucial factors, but I’ll get back to that. It has increased the access to the Arctic. And with increased access, we see increased activity. And the increased activity is not only within tourism and trying to catch marine life in various forms, but also on the scientific side and probably, most importantly the global demand for resources. I’ll come back to that as well. So, when you look at the Arctic opening up, things have changed, and also dynamics up there. Marine life is actually migrating quit significantly and very fast to the North. You have species that you normally would fish in the North Sea, which today you can fish around “Small Bank”. And that development took about five to ten years to happen. I think that’s quite significant. Probably, the most significant piece if you look at the map, is that in the very near future we will most likely have a maritime corridor between the Pacific and the Atlantic. And when combine that with the fact that this is the area where you would see potentially an inter-continental nuclear exchange between Russia and U.S. take place, I think you would basically, be between the two most important things that relate to the Arctic seen from a great power perspective.

And then, there’s a last one: China. China is today the major investor in Russia’s Arctic. They would probably, if they could choose, have someone else to be the most predominant investor in the region, but as a result of the Ukrainian crisis, China is. And today China basically owns about 30% of the infrastructure on the Yamal Peninsula, which is where the majority of Russian oil and gas in the Arctic is being exploited. And I am not sure that that might be the reason why China calls itself a “neo-Arctic state” today. It’s interesting. Other international trends which I think is a part of the dynamics in the Arctic is the fight for the new world order. Are we going to have an Arctic which is managed in the same fashion as the South China Sea in the future? I don’t know. I’m just asking the question. We see that there is a discussion and I think a competition about the future world order.  And as I already eluded to, the international relations based on law and order is for us, as a small state, imperative. The great powers, with the muscles, they can probably do it slightly differently from a point of strength. And combining that with the fact that the state’s powerbase is shifting, or maybe combining from basically diplomatic information military and an economic point of view, to (Inaudible) what is political, military, economic, societal, infrastructural information. It is interesting to see these dynamics. Why do I say that? Well, it seems at least that nations are trying to get a world with other nations and not necessarily using the traditional “inaudible” approach, but (inaudible) approach, or some will call that a hybrid approach. And why so? Well, I think that’s tied to the fact that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to attribute actions in the international realm as a result of using the (inaudible) instead of (inaudible) approach, and those capabilities and attributes you find within that. The other part of that is that Sober has provided us with a completely new toolbox, where you can actually do a lot of things, but you also maintain the ability to deny who actually did it. We’ve seen it with Iran’s quit recent actions both in the Middle East, but also elsewhere in the world, adding to that unmanned systems. Where there is operating in the air, most of us can see and we can actually, in most incidents attribute to someone, but when we talk about the undersea area, it might be much more difficult. Looking at these factors, and then adding what seems at least to me to be an increasing risk acceptance among some other great powers, we might end up in a situation where the international realm is not becoming more stable, but it is being more and more challenged with those abilities. As a small state, it is not a good outlook, to be honest with you. And what has made this possible? Basically technology. –Can I have the next slide please?-

And this is actually an illustration where long range precision weapons, basically, can reach most of Europe from the “Kola Peninsula”. Unmanned systems with similar capabilities not necessarily capabilities available today, but which will be available, I think, in the very near future combined with the information technology development and the fact that we today exploit that in various forms. And some will claim that we do have a kind of information or political war, or at least an absence of peace. And looking at the technology and the opportunities and possibilities you have, will be able for having plausible deniability when it comes to attribution. We see that technology may actually today favour the offensive actions, and not necessarily defensive actions, which we traditionally, at least, I think, the stronger point of position to have. So, what is likely in the future? Well, I think we will continue to see in the (Inaudible) a non-linear actions taking place. Proxies? Well it has always been proxies in competitions between nations and great powers, we’ve seen it’s forefront in many different realms in our areas, but also in the far abroad. Exploitation of the information domain? Yes. Where is me, is more the framing of the mind and the perception of the growing generations. The coming generations which are probably far more willing to accept modern technologies than someone of my age, they may not necessarily have the same resistance to what is being pushed out in the information domain. And hence, the competition of the narrative which we see among quite a few of the international actors today become (Inaudible). Whose narrative actually applies? And I think we may end up in a situation where we see that the trend is, to put it simply: “divide and conquer”. You may not agree with me, but at least it’s tempting to draw that on a short conclusion. So, what is our perception? We are a small state, with a population less than a half of London. The country size is about the size of Germany, which is closely ninety million people. And hence, compared to Russia, which is one of our closest neighbours, you can see the obvious asymmetries. I already said, we are dependent on an international law and rule system, and it actually works, if we are to be able to work within the international system with a certainty that we are not going to lose or being robbed, and so on and so forth. That we can actually trade and do all these things with the safety, you’d like to have. At the same time, we are heavily maritime dominated. We live on land, yes, and we live off the sea, and we live off the continental shelf. (Inaudible). And if we go back to the First World War and also the Second World War, I think it is fair to say that the Norwegian merchant fleet actually made difference from the Allies during those two World Wars. Our fleet is not small today, actually it has become bigger, if we include the part that is focused on oil and gas development around the world. So, hence, we do have a global interest, and we do have an interest in a world that is based on rules and laws.

The other (Inaudible) we have is in fact that we are in Ireland, if you use the NATO geography. No, Norway is not in Ireland, we’re part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, and that’s true. Everything that is going to come to and go from Norway, it has to come across the ocean, regardless, of how close Sweden and Finland become a partner of NATO. So, basically, we can understand conundrum, as the UK will depend wholeheartedly on the oceans. The sea lines of communications, which were the term we used the old days. Now, what do we do? Well, we try to balance this towards Russia, which we have done since the late fifties. Well, we have reassurance on the hand, and deterrence on the other hand. We, as a small state, can we reassure? No. Can we deter? Definitely not. But as a part of the NATO alliance and with close allies like yourself, it actually makes a difference. We can reassure the Russians; we do not intend to. But on the other hand, with the support and help from our allies we can deter them as well. Now this is what we try to balance since the NATO was formed in the late forties. And towards our allies we would like to reassure them that we do actually know what’s going on in behind North. We do actually share the information, and the assessment of what the Russians are active, which is probably why I am here today. So, deterrence and reassurance has been a long threat in our security and defence policy towards Russia. And therefore, our defence concept is basically built on three tiers: The Armed Forces, total offence, and NATO the Alliance. And that’s from where we draw our power, as a small state.

When it comes to Russia, do we see it as an enemy? No, not necessarily as an enemy, but there is significant uncertainty. Do we see a bilateral conflict with the Russians likely? No, but we do see a spill over conflict with the Russians very likely, where they have to protect and secure the second strike capability, where the majority of that is located on the “Kola Peninsula”, which is on purpose about sixty km away from the Norwegian (Inaudible). And that is probably also the reason why the Russians are so focused on the high North and the Kola area, seen from my perspective. I’ll come to another small piece as well, connected to that. Russia reaches lines (Inaudible) the water line from the Kola Peninsula to the Bering Strait. Can you see that? It’s on the left side of the map. That’s where they have the treasures and where they have the future. The challenge Russia is facing is that they need a benign environment to get the resources out. They wouldn’t like to have a conflict because, then they wouldn’t be able to sell the commodities on the international market, that’s one thing. The other thing in order to get those resources out of Siberia or the northern coast of Russia, they have to use the sea. In winter time the weather is too harsh and the conditions too tough to get anything out of that region across land. In summer time most of that region is mud. You won’t be able to drive significant resources out of that area going by land. You have to go by the sea, and using the rivers and the harbours they’ve built there in order to get that out.

As you can see from the slide here, what technology provides the Russian state today, well, we are capable of the same thing, but it shows, that when we are talking about geography today, we have to look at it slightly in a different manner that we used to do it during the Cold War, where the Greenland, Iceland, UK gap was basically the frontier for the AS AW warfare, or the antisubmarine warfare. Today, as we can see from the range on the map, we’ll probably have to move that and talk about what we call the “Briergut”, which is from North Cape in Norway to the Brier island to South point of the Svalbard Archipelago. Because if we want to maintain what is the crucial part of NATO, which is linked between North America and Europe, we have to make sure that these weapons cannot threaten the sea lines of communications across the Atlantic. So, the dilemma we face as a nation is the ability to deter and reassure. We completely depend on our allies. Our powerbase as a nation is too small, and hence the strategic priorities for the government is quite difficult. Yes, we know we have our allies supporting us, but to maintain that support, how much of our natural forces should be used abroad, compared to keep them at home, keeping track of what the Russians are doing, stabilizing the area, and so on and so forth. With NATO’s new readiness initiative, and also response force, it is a challenge. How much are we going to use at home, and how much are we going to use abroad. Because our force structure is much smaller than your force structure. And then, being dependent on our allies, we have to be able to receive and support the forces coming to our country. And hence, Article 5 making sure that we have the ability to lift that above, so our allies can see that and recognize the problem becomes crucial, again, adding to the dilemma how much are we going to use at home and how much are going to maintain at home for national purposes, which I think, are also is for our purposes. And therefore we have been trying to establish and working on a (Inaudible) we call: “credible threshold”.  What is that consisted of? Basically presence, plans, enforcements, topple defense, and our independent national operations. When it comes to presence for us, it is important to have a situation understanding that we can share with our allies and make sure that we can keep track of what the Russians are doing on a day-to-day basis, and what their intentions are in longer term. Hence, permanent presence, and basically trying to maintain the situation status quo becomes important. And with that, not necessarily permanent allied presence, but irregular allied presence that shows that our closest allies are able to operate in these parts of the world, which is basically (Inaudible) very disputable when it comes to being a human being. That’s worth keeping in mind, even though we talk about climate change. When it comes to our plans, how many of them exercised, rehearsed and validated, like we did, for instance during the “Triangle Juncture” is crucial. That allows us to actually continue to develop them but also to reassure that we are able to undertake operations in behind North, if we have to. And of course, from the Norwegian point of view, adapting our plans to the allies, and our allies, to which I’ll come back to.

The cooperation with the UK is crucial. Because if we are not able to work with our allies, we will not be able to provide them with the support and the sustainment, using our total defense concept, which is a crucial part of having allied forces operating in our country. And, from a national point of view, we’ve been in the “force situation” of the last ten to fifteen years, where the armed forces are being able to focusing on building muscles, fighting power, whilst to sustain the operations with utilized are total defense concept, basically grown on civil resources to underpin the military operations. And, finally, the independent national operations (Inaudible) we need to have forces, that are able to react and to have the readiness to face any developments in our neighbourhood. That is probably the biggest challenge we face nationally today. Looking at the cooperation we had with the UK over the… at least the Second War World, it is basically developing and primarily we see that education and training exercises forces working together and also operational level planning, has always been there. Also, operations. The “new peace” which I think is quite significant compared to the earlier days is the “material cooperation” we see with the F-35s, the P-8s, and also that we are allowed to buy into your production line of naval auxiliary ships. We bought his Norwegian Majesty’s ship, straight out of your production line, which is now being retrofitted and tested in Norway, and hopefully, operationally next year. There are some technical issues which always are with new ships. And that is a new dimension to what we already have, and have had for quite a few years, because if you look at the education and training, the sea training, we have been participating in that as long as I have been in the Norwegian armed forces, and even before that. Clockwork, which is your education and training of your pilots and all submarines in the High North, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, when Prince Harry came to the Northern Norway and with the civilian forces.

James Gray MP: We can blame you

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: Yes, Sir, we’ll take the blame for that, for him coming to Norway. We have the special forces both on the navy side, and the more, I’ll say land side, probably wrong term to use, but still. They’ve been working together since the Second World War started, and the cooperation has basically developed and developed. And then, finally you have the JEF and Royal marines, which are now integrated in our national plans, and the Royal marines being integrated into the cooperation that we have with the U.S. marine core, the cooperation we call the “Triangle Marines”. And hence, the Royal Marines will be a part of our plan together with Americans to re-enforce Northern Norway, if push comes from the Russian side. Operations, yes, we did ASW operations in the old days, where we had invincible to core command platforms for the ASW groups operating in the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea. That has been revitalized as a result, of the technological developments and the way Russia has changed its operations. Next slide, please. So, in summary, trying to somehow elude to in this region, I think, that changes are faster than we are able to comprehend. The one thing is the corridor potentially between the Pacific and the North Atlantic. Some say, that we will have in 2030, some say in 2050. The only thing we know is that the changes up there are moving faster than we have been anticipated and able to predict through our scientific research in that region. The new corridor will, of course, have a significant impact on international and global trade, as one piece of it. But, the other part of that, which I think basically illustrates the Chinese interest is the access to new recourses which is the global demand and high demand today. The other pieces, of course, the MAD Doctrine, or the Doctrine which is basically called “Mutually Assured Destruction” and the “Second Strike Capability”, it hasn’t been very to the Forefront for the last 20-30 years, but it’s still there. All the great powers have nuclear weapons and it is a last resort, if push comes to show off. And in this region, if you have a fear ballistic the missile capable share, Russia reacts to that, they are not very happy with those kind of capabilities coming close to the Arctic. I think its important to keep that in mind, because from my point of view, those of the two major drivers, and the you have other things, as we talked already, the new world order, who’s going to set the rules in the future, are going to have a South Chinese Sea and a polar region, or we are going to have (Inaudible), which were very familiar with, and the way things are being done today. Looking at the way Russia is operating in the High North, they are basically being remilitarizing the High North, and I think that is because they want to have as much a say into the agenda, of how to operate in this region, when you can operate it free from eyes, and basically allow you to operate or to sail in the whole region up there. Challenges? Are there challenges? I think technology is something that we underestimated, not technology itself, but our lack of ability to control the result that technology provides and the abilities it gives us today. Attribution and the risk acceptance is probably two factors we need to look closer into, and see how we are going to stay and manage technology in a way it does not destabilize in international realm, nut basically supports the international realm in a positive way. I mentioned the “Brier gap” and the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap to important defense lines, and especially as we see ranges in modern systems increase, and they will just carry on increase. What do we do when we see the number of unmanned systems operating on the sea, or in the air, or on the surface for that matter, increasing where challenges of finding out who is actually operating these systems. We have non-state actors, we have state-actors, we have a whole branch of groups that we need to take into consideration. And I think I’ll to finish off with the close ties between our two countries. I’ll start of saying that we were broken from the union of Denmark as the Napoleonic Wars have come to an end in Europe. And for Norway, I think that has been just a lucky strike, just to be honest with you. Because we were joining (Inaudible) in a Union with them, provided more leverage and more freedom as a nation, not necessarily sovereign at that time, but when we hit 1905, we were able to basically fight for our sovereignty, complete sovereignty. Also, controlling of foreign policy, which was basically the issue between the government in Stockholm and our government in Oslo. And I know that we got some help and some Great powers as well, that wanted that to occur, and we are very grateful for that. And then, here today, where I stand as a second generation (Inaudible) in my family, as my dad went British perisher in 1967, and I think, we’ve seen that the development has increased, and what can we say is that we are very grateful for being your friends. Thank you.

James Gray MP: Thank you, Admiral, close friends you are indeed, no question about that. I’d like to (Inaudible) come back about NATO’s thinking from ten years we can see them and they were entirely set by hot and dusty places in the Middle East. (Inaudible) And that’s reflected I think particularly the way the JEF in Northern Norway are part of your defense strategic plan, rather than just a trading aid, which were one time. So, let me just ask you, if I may one question about NATO, NATO’s approach to the whole question of North? Question one: What chance is there of Sweden and for Finland as well join NATO and is it important they we all cooperate with Sweden? What effect that have on you? One more question: Supposing that were Russian activity on Svalbard are there are two fully operational or at least one operational Russian basis on Svalbard, supposing there were some minor Russian activity on Barents Sea, and Svalbard, would it constitute an “arc fire” moment?

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: Yes, I agree with you, this finish question is much easier to answer, Sir. Now, I think, presently, Finland probably will not join the NATO, they will continue to tie the connections closer and closer to NATO and also to the great powers that are operating in our part of the world. Trying to basically do the same as we do. Reassure the Russians on the one hand, and on the other hand to turn it sufficiently, so they maintain their own freedom of action. The cooperation between the Nordic countries has developed quit significantly over the last five years, I think it’s fair to say, you have to help me out towards that. And we are getting closer and closer. We see how the Swedes and the Finns operate, in accordance with NATO doctrine. They can plan together with us; they can operate together with us. What is lacking is probably some of the interoperability capabilities on Comms, IT, and so on and so forth. But, so far, when they participated in exercise juncture, which was a NATO exercise in ’17, exercise juncture in ’18 and also partly last year, we provided them with the tools required to operate together, so I don’t see that as an issue, and it would be a rather quick fix to have them within the Alliance if the governments were to choose that. Russia sending small units to Svalbard, would that be an Article 5, very situation-dependant, to be honest with you. It would at least be a significant crisis. I will go back to the 1957, maybe you recall that, when we had the Russian badger airplane flying into, basically, crashing in (Inaudible), which is a part of the Svalbard archipelago, where we sent a coaster ship to the area, with all of the rescue assets we had at that time and figuring out what had happened, confirming that everyone on board, the aircraft was dead, and then we had a significant challenge with Russia, who is going to basically savage the wreckage, because of secrecy , and all these things. An interesting thing was, that the Soviet Union at that time they sent a quite significant piece of the service combatants to that area, trying to pressure. We said no. We savaged the wreckage and the Russians got everything in the end of the day. But it happened in the way we basically dictated it. Would we be able to do that without NATO supporting us? No. If there were to send up a small unit to Svalbard, I am not so sure that we would call Article 5, but if they were to fight for the serenity of the island group, it would be an Article 5 situation. So, I think the moment they challenged the serenity, which is Norwegian, in accordance with the Svalbard Treaty, we would, but not before that. But it would potentially become a major crisis. And I think the reason is as you look at the geography, the once sitting on Svalbard, would basically be able to control the access to the Polar Sea. If you can control the access to the Polar Sea, basically controlling the maritime corridor between the Pacific and the Atlantic. I am not so sure that you, nor the French, nor the Americans would be very happy with that, so…

James Gray MP: Certainly not.

Question from the public: Admiral, thank you very much for that. It was fascinating. I think it’s interesting looking back, I mean at 70’s I’ve spent nearly all my naval career in freegluts, in Norwegian fields, or in the Arctic ocean. So, in the winter it was all black all time, and in the daylight. And, in 1982, in January, I was with “Invincible” and three Commander Brigade up there, projecting about the Falklands, it was a good practice (Inaudible). I think that I would say that three commander brigade, what we did there, was more than just a show. I mean, we saw that as a pretty key-deployment, to put three commander brigade into North Norway, so I think it was more than that. My question relates to this barrier, and I think it is very interesting, North Cabrera, Svalbard. There are some Russian sensitivities as you’ve touched on. I mean, there is no doubt that basically the Russian bastions for Second Strike are up there. The Russian bastions are areas where we have been, gone, for many decades, I can’t say too much about it, and the Norwegians have been very helpful in that. I mean, in this new environment presumably the Norwegians will still be very supportive towards us in terms of access to the bastion, should that be required, I’ll put it in that context. And, my final bit of that is that, do you think that the failure of the INF Treaty and the fact that the new exotic nuclear “usable” nuclear weapons makes it more tricky because there will be particularly American submarines deploying when the new weapons of produce, which are carrying possible short range nuclear weapons, rather than ballistic missiles. And does that have an implication for how you think you’ll behave in the North?

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: Difficult question, to be honest. I’d like to draw a parallel, or just have a few words about the third commander. I think that is a very important force, when it comes to operating in Northern Norway. You said yourself that you’ve been operating in the fjords, basically freezing everything that you can freeze on your body, from time to time. The challenge is that you basically have one broad access or one access on land. If you are operating militarily in Northern Norway, you have to do it in a joint fashion. You have to use the sea, you have to use the air, and of course the land, in order to have any chance to have some progress up there. That’s why I think the capability than the Third Commander represent is crucial. It is just as crucial today, as it was during the Cold War.

When it comes to the INF Treaty and the nuclear weapons, and how that will potentially change, well, if the world and the great powers believe that there is a merit and low yield nuclear weapons, weapons with potentially far less damaging radiation and basically you have a much stronger explosion, I think, you would change the whole nuclear doctrine, and the way you apply nuclear weapons. Will we change our approach in the high North? Yes, I think we will. Going back to the attribution and the technology issue, I think there will be a significant challenge for us to accept having Russian forces on our boarder, potentially with low-yield nuclear weapons, which states no way that we can defend ourselves against, unless you have very superior ground-based air-defence systems, or some kind of weapons that can basically burn that off before its fired. But, on the other hand, I wonder if the reasons the Russians left the INF Treaty is less Europe and NATO, and more China, on the other hand. Because, if we look at Russia today, and you go on the Eastern side of the Ural Mountains, its predominantly Chinese people living there.  The Russians are outnumbered. By how many percentage, I am not sure, I don’t know the numbers, but I know that quite a few of the counties, the cities, are governed by Chinese, and not the Russians themselves. And I’ve been wondering, well, did they skip the INF Treaty in order to be able to have a system and a capability towards the Chinese even though it seems that they have close relationship with the Chinese today. I don’t think that Russia would like to have China as a bad fellow, but right now they don’t have an option, because they need the financial support in order to develop the Northern region, but they wouldn’t prefer to have the western countries providing that investment, because it would be much more not stable and predictable.

Question from the public, Stuart Mark McDonald: Thank you for your presentation. As a Scottish MP, (Inaudible), but I’ll leave that for now. Can I ask to go a far broad? I’m interested when you talked about how you straight the right balance, when you deploy domestic balance, and abroad. Obviously, we know that the UK is about to embark on this big integrated foreign policy in defence review. We’ve had the modernising effects programmed recently, and have been claims many reviews happened outside of the last STSR, here in the UK. I am curious to know exactly how you’ve come to, how Norway comes to the conclusions that comes to on where it deploys, how it gets the balance strike, how it gets the spending right, makes sure it has the capability to meet the threats and stuff like that. And then, the other question I have, is even broader. I am curious with the use of a “self-chain Sea” in the Polar region. And just thinking of that big challenge, and you asked the big question: who sets the rules? I wonder if you can talk about that a bit more, who will set the rules, what is needed to another partners in the international community have to do, how quick it has to do it if you are saying that that corridor is going to come apart in the next 20-30 years? How urgent should we see this challenge as it is going to fit for purpose. That kind of assessment.

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: Wow. I wish I was the Oracle of Delphi right now. Striking the balance between deploying forces at home and abroad I think is more politically driven and in that respect, I mean, discussions between our prime minister, your prime minister, and other close allies where to contribute or not. I think that is a more important factor than the chief defence assessment of how much does he need to keep in Norway and how much he can actually allow to deploy abroad. And then, there is a risk measurement and a risk-taking in that and I think that it is as simple as that. I’ll ask him who is working in the Ministry of Defence and in the defence staff right now if he’s picked up slightly different points.

Comment from the public: I think that just about describes it. We have a situation right now where the government is considering contributing to a French-led special forces operation in Mali. Very political, a lot of political dialogue and debate about that, so that strikes it well. But I think in general, I think, the chief of defence will prefer NATO operations and closer allies because it has a spin-off. That kind of assessment.

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: We feel very strongly about being supported of our closest allies, because we see that if we don’t maintain a close relationship and then basically being brothers in arms on other problems and issues, we cannot necessarily expect to have the same support back home, which we are heavily dependent upon. I think I alluded to that sufficiently in my speech. (Inaudible) But I have to answer your second question, which was about the South China Sea situation in the High North. Well I think that the only way to make sure that that doesn’t happen is that we operate there regularly and that we basically abide by the UNCLOS. If we operate in accordance with the UNCLOS, which I think the Russians would prefer, even though they might challenge us through some of the sounds you see along the coast and claim that it is not an international strait, it is internal waters. I think that we would rather have that discussion than have a South China Sea situation up there. Who will be able to effect that? Well, yourself, Russia, I think France, US, will be sufficient to basically prevent China from establishing the rules they are establishing or trying to establish in the South China Sea. And basically I think it is more or less the same actors opposing the Chinese approach in the South China Sea. Would that lend itself to an Article 5? No, I don’t think so. But it may. If the alliance considered the situation so dire that we have to, we may end up fighting over the rights and the access to the Polar Sea. And as I tried to allude to, not going into the details, because then we would be probably way too classified, there are some reasons, geostrategically, why that is so. (Inaudible)

Question from the public, Martin Douglass Hughes: Having been a member of the defence committee in the last parliament, hoping to go back onto this one, this is an issue as a Scottish constituency MP that I find important. And the only MPs at the table at the moment are actually Scots. So we understand the importance of the High North and the Arctic, you talked about China and its financing process within the Russian Federation. I want to be more of an optimist versus the gloom and doom scenarios. Now, the United States in its dealings with China, in terms of the South China Sea, there are some talks about a policy called mutually-assured restraint. Now, I’m not going to say that’s about compromise, but it’s about dealing with practicalities of an emerging superpower. If that is something that people are looking to, is there some possibility where mutually-assured restraint, even with a less predictable actor, such as the Russian Federation, can be used or is it just pie in the sky?

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: If you go back to the speech Putin gave in Munich in 2007, he laid out the plans and the long-term foreign policy issues of concern to Russia. They have followed that plan. He said what they were going to do and they have done it. NATO or the West has not been that transparent. Whether China is a more predictable actor than Russia is difficult to assess, to be honest with you. I don’t think the Russians would be unpredictable in the High North. We would get very clear indications of where the lines are drawn and then it would be up to us whether we would challenge that. I also think that Russia would realize that they will not be able to dictate the Arctic. But what they fear, I think, is a China playing into this, where they use their economic, basically their permissive power base to effect the development up there. And if you go back and look at what China has done now. They have basically made a pearl of strings from China to Europe, buying up harbours, I would say in a slightly unfriendly fashion, sorry for my English. I think with Sri Lanka, where they basically provide the country with significant loans, will not be able to pay the rents for the loans, and they demanded a 99-year lease of the harbour for free. That was the payback, okay? And they’ve done so and so forth, okay? Basically taking nations hostage because they don’t have the economic capability of paying the rents. And that I think what Russia is fearing up there. They don’t want China in that region with that kind of influence which they would get using their economic power. But they use a lot of other capabilities as well which are not as transparent and easy to detect for the common public. They use IT in the same fashion as the Russians, competing for the narrative and making sure that their side of the story potentially is the one to win. I’ll give you a different example: The Arctic Council had a meeting last fall and were not able to agree to a communique after the meeting because the US foreign minister, I don’t remember the issue, said no we cannot conclude. It might have been climate change. But at the end of the day it wasn’t necessarily that big a thing. What happened? Hours after that, you will see in the China Post, or whatever the web-based newspaper is called, basically run by Chinese government in English language decry the whole thing. The Arctic Council has to go away, it cannot make decisions. Trying to undermine it completely.

Question from the public, Ewin Grant: I realize very much that you just can’t look at ex-Soviet criminality without recognizing its links with its legacy of the Soviet Union and its militarization of the air force as well as the security services. My question is, what particular aspects of changing military technology, in the context of climate change and the Northern Sea land, particularly changing naval technology, particularly UVs and so on, do you feel that Western, why do Western public opinion, particularly in the English-speaking countries but also Germany, needs to grasp to better understand. Britain will be out of the EU next month, it will be a bit more similar to Germany and I see how the European Union Civilian Bureaucracy, the Central Bureaucracy, and the like really aren’t, they really don’t get NATO and the wider aspects. There needs to be a big improvement in empathy.

Rear Admiral Sverre Nordahl Engeness: There is a danger to this. I recognize that. Looking at what has happened in Ukraine and some of the other recent conflicts where hybrid or asymmetric operations have been the core of the way the operations have been done and not military power as we see it. I think we need to look closer at how they can influence us when it comes to the political, economic, societal infrastructure and information. Information domain we are quite aware of. The political domain we are also reasonably aware of. But I am not so sure that we have sat down and looked at the consequences of infrastructure. You have a lot of infrastructure across the ocean between Europe and the US and Canada, Iceland, elsewhere in the world. I am not so sure that if they were basically to hemp the financial structures of the world, or anyone, if they were able to do that, what that would do to the world and to the world stability. I think there are, we are still too much driven and focused on the traditional challenges, not that they’re there. We have to be able to incorporate them as well. But I think that the way you operate today and very much because of the cyber domain, as the unmanned systems in various domains are coming into operations, I don’t think we are able to grasp the consequence of what we are able to do in that respect. If we were to cut the cyber links across the Atlantic Ocean, what would the results be? How much money would Europe lose, the US lose, potentially Canada and so on and so forth. There are some implications here that I’m not sure we thought well enough through and it is very difficult to defend undersea cables lying at depths up to 4,000 meters. Yes, I recognize that but there might be other ways we have to do this. And I think there are a lot of areas in that respect that we have to look at a far greater detail and actually recognize that today we are not able to cope with that at all.

James Gray MP: Thank you Admiral very, very much indeed for that. And thank you Henry Jackson Society for arranging this extremely important meeting. And thank you everyone for coming. So thank you so much.


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