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Deterrence and reassurance?

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone
MILITARISM / The Norwegian base declaration of 5 March 1949 was a first condition for Norwegian accession to NATO. Norway must deny the United States the base of armed forces on Norwegian territory in peacetime – The Storting must now reject the "supplementary agreement".


(MODERN TIMES brings Tunander's consultation response to the Storting in connection with the base agreement discussed this spring.)

The American-Norwegian "supplementary agreement" is a radical breach of the Norwegian base declaration and of the Norwegian policy of "deterrence and reassurance". The Storting must reject this agreement.

The supplementary agreement between USA and Norway from 16 April 2021 states that it shall be perceived as a supplement to, or a clarification of, the current agreement and that this supplementary agreement does not change Norwegian base policy, nuclear policy or peace and security policy. It is also stated that "activities in accordance with this agreement shall be carried out with full respect for Norwegian sovereignty".

However, the agreement also paints a different picture. The agreement allows for Norway to give up sovereignty over Norwegian areas to American forces. In such areas, US forces must be granted exclusive access. They must be under US jurisdiction and police authority. The Norwegian authorities must also take the necessary measures to ensure US forces' control over four named "unified areas", the Evenes, Rygge and Sola air bases and the naval base in Ramsund. Norway gives "American forces permission to control access to the united areas". American forces must be able to "travel in and out of and move freely on Norwegian territory […] No boarding or control of aircraft, vessels and vehicles used by or exclusively for American forces shall be carried out, without the consent of the United States". Similar US agreements exist for several other countries.

These American-Norwegian "united areas" must be understood as American bases in Norway.

Norwegian base commander as in Turkey?

If you look more closely at the agreement, Norway has less influence over these bases (these "united areas") than, for example, Turkey has over Incirlik, which is considered the largest US airbase in the NATO area. Incirlik has had 4000-5000 Americans, half military personnel from the US Air Force, but the base is not formally an American base. According to an American-Turkish agreement, it is "a joint-use US-Turkish base" or what in Norway one would probably call a "unified area". It has a Turkish base commander, who is superior to the US commander at the base. It gives Turkey certain sovereignty, but the base was, according to Turkish authorities, deeply involved in the coup attempt in August 2016. Incirlik must be understood as an "American airbase" (within the Turkish base).

But when the US went to war in 2003 and bombed Iraq because of alleged weapons of mass destruction, the US was denied the use of Incirlik for such bombings. The American-Norwegian "supplementary agreement" would hardly have allowed for such a decision. It does not say anything about the "united areas" in Norway having Norwegian base commanders. If in the future the United States wishes to attack Russia and use Evens for such bomb attacks, it is difficult to see how Norway, with this text of the agreement, could deny the USA this.

How does Bakke-Jensen know that the US wants to use such facilities in Norway to defend Norway?

When we read a legal agreement, such as this "supplementary agreement," we must read it as an agreement between states with conflicting interests. Being an ally does not mean that you have identical interests, and it is obvious that the US as a major power has different interests than Norway.

USA: "horizontal escalation"

Norway's former Minister of Defense, Frank Bakke-Jensen, writes that he sees no "reason why Russia should react to Norway ensuring that our most important ally can contribute to, and strengthen, the defense of Norway in crisis or war". But how does Bakke-Jensen know that the US wants to use such facilities in Norway to defend Norway? That is not American doctrine. American doctrine is "horizontal escalation" (see RAND report "Enhancing deterrence...", commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, 2020). Which means that one is thinking of operating in Barents Sea and Northern Norway, not to defend Norway, but to attack Russia, where the country is most vulnerable, in the event that a serious conflict arises between Russia and the US in, for example, Ukraine.

Not to defend Norway, but to attack Russia, where the country is most vulnerable.

What Norway must do is to develop an agreement with the USA that limits the USA's ability to conduct offensive operations. We have to think like the former defense minister Jens Christian Hauge thought when he designed the Norwegian base policy. Norway must deny the US the basing of combat forces on Norwegian territory in peacetime. There are to be no American offensive forces based in Norway, that is on Norwegian soil, and Northern Norway (Finnmark) is to be "left alone" for American and other allied forces (see Eriksen & Pharo, Norwegian foreign policy, Volume 5, 1997).

The base statement

The Norwegian base declaration from 5 March 1949 was a Firstly, conditions for the Norwegian alliance accession. Norway became a member of NATO on 4 April 1949 with the limitations given in the base declaration: it was a unilateral declaration from the Norwegian side, but it contained categorical promises to Moscow. The base statement says:

"The Norwegian government asks the Soviet government to be assured that Norway will never contribute to a policy that has aggressive aims. It will never allow Norwegian territory to be used in such a political service. The Norwegian government will not accede to any agreement with other states which entails obligations for Norway to open bases for the combat forces of foreign powers on Norwegian territory as long as Norway is not attacked or exposed to threats of attack. [...] The Norwegian government] therefore wishes to repeat in the most categorical way that it will neither contribute to a policy that has aggressive aims nor open bases for the combat forces of foreign powers on Norwegian territory as long as Norway is not attacked or exposed to threats of attack .”

Gerhardsen in relation to the Base declaration in 1949.

The base declaration was later clarified and partly reinterpreted, from 1951 and then in the 1970s, but it applies to additions such as advance storage of equipment, headquarters and allied installations with associated allied personnel, which should make it possible for Norway to take on American and British combat forces in a war or crisis, but there was never any question of permanent basing of foreign combat forces on Norwegian soil. Norway denied allied bases to foreign combat forces precisely so that these could not be used for attacks against Russian territory. Norway's alliance affiliation with the possibility of deploying allied forces was intended to deter The Soviet Union and later Russia from advancing their positions. The restrictive base policy was intended to reassure Moscow, so that such an attack would not be perceived as necessary.

A radical break with the Norwegian base declaration, a break with the Norwegian policy of "deterrence and reassurance".

Another condition for Norwegian alliance affiliation was that Northern Norway should "be left in peace". Minister of Defence Jens Christian Hauge, who had written many of the Norwegian declarations, referred to "Northern Norway as a buffer zone between the West and the Soviet Union" (Eriksen & Pharo, 1997). This limitation of the Allied forces' freedom of movement was seen as as fundamental as the Basic Declaration. It was also meant to reassure Moscow. Norway refused allies to operate in northern Norway and Norway refused allies to have an offensive capacity in the north (because such forces would be able to carry out a surprise attack against Russia). Such restrictions could reassure Russia. "Northern Norway" was later specified as Finnmark. But the "additional agreement" does not provide for such a restriction on the freedom of movement of American forces in Norway. It talks about restrictions for "Svalbard, Jan Mayen and Bouvetøya", but not about Finnmark.

The American-Norwegian "supplementary agreement" is a radical break with the Norwegian base declaration, a break with the Norwegian policy of "deterrence and reassurance" and it allows Norway to give up sovereignty over Norwegian areas to American forces. Parliament must reject this "additional agreement".


Otherwise, see more articles by Tunander recently in Klasekampen at the theme,
about US military dominance.

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