A total of 8,6 billions of the defense budget for 2016 goes towards the purchase of new F-35 fighter aircraft and the construction of a new airbase in Ørlandet. The expenses will cover the ordering of 22 fighter aircraft that has already been approved by the Storting, and another six aircraft with scheduled delivery in 2020. Both the Socialist Left Party and the Green Party Environment voted against the new acquisition in the Storting.
The total defense budget is NOK 49,1 billion – an increase of 4,3 billion since last year. At the same time, the Home Guard's budget is reduced by 11,8 million, the Army's by 24,8 million and the Coast Guard's by 5,4 million.
Norwegian soldiers abroad. Expenses for Norwegian forces abroad, on the other hand, increase to 704 million – an increase of 124 million from the 2015 budget. The main reason is the strengthening of Norway's participation in the UN operation in Mali. In addition, Norway continues its participation in several other UN operations and the EU's Operation Triton, which will control the border with Schengen and save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean.
However, the largest Norwegian military contribution abroad in 2016 consists of 120 soldiers training Iraqi security forces fighting the ISIS terror group. Norway is also continuing its military presence in Afghanistan out of 2016, with 50 soldiers to advise and train the Afghan special police in Kabul.
Other foreign projects mentioned in the budget include Security Sector Reform (SSR), which involves supporting other countries in reforming their military forces. The main beneficiary countries of this support are Ukraine and Georgia, and Norway will contribute personnel to NATO's liaison offices in these countries. The budget states that "the contributions help strengthen these countries' own security, as well as develop a stronger NATO by preparing potential nations for membership or partnership".
In its alternative state budget, the SV proposed increasing the allocations to the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Army by a total of NOK 500 million, while cutting the expenses for the Iraqi operation and the purchase of fighter aircraft by a total of 930 million. In MDG's alternative defense budget, they proposed cutting the cost of new fighter aircraft and fighter aircraft base by as much as NOK 3,2 billion. The SV is the only party that went into its alternative state budget to bring home the Norwegian soldiers from Iraq. None of the Storting parties budgeted to withdraw the soldiers from Afghanistan.
«We contribute to peace and security.» In an NTB report from 7 October, the Norwegian Officers' Association stated that they "fear that the downsizing of the Army, Home Guard and Coast Guard, respectively, could lead to reduced training, training and sailing activity". At the same time, the allocations to Norwegian forces abroad increase by NOK 124 million. Ny Tid asks Øyvind Hallesaker, the Conservative Party's faction leader in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, if it would not have been better to prioritize other things than the purchase of F-35 aircraft and Norwegian soldiers abroad.
Wouldn't it be better for Norway's defense capabilities to use the money allocated for foreign operations to strengthen the domestic Army, the Home Guard and the Coast Guard?
"It becomes too easy to argue by putting arms branches against each other. Defense is governed by the current long-term plan and the investments that result from it, ”Hallesaker replies.
“The Armed Forces have had to continue to devote resources towards prioritized tasks, and in particular, the Swedish Armed Forces received increased operating resources in the current budget. Helicopters on sharpened preparedness are a visible example of this. The defense budget for 2016 also entails a clear focus in the northern areas, through increased activity levels for both maritime patrol aircraft and submarines, ”he says.
"When it comes to forces abroad: Norway has a long tradition of serving military in operations, in line with the long lines of Norwegian security policy and with international law. Norway shows a willingness to take global responsibility for security and stability. Norwegian forces abroad contribute to peace and security, and it will be irresponsible to withdraw from operations on a grounds mentioned here. "
Drop the F-35? The current Canadian ruling party won the decision to scrap the purchase of F-35 fighters – which, according to the commander of the fighter aircraft program in the United States, can make each of the planes Norway will buy as much as one million dollars more expensive. According to NRK, the high cost of the F-35 aircraft could cause both the United States and Denmark to abandon them in favor of modernized F-16 aircraft.
Had this not been a better use of resources for Norway as well, Hallesaker?
"The purchase of the F-35 is firm, and has been doing so since the investment decision was made in 2008. There is broad political agreement on the renewal of the fighter aircraft, and this has been a clear priority for the Government," Hallesaker replies.
“The security policy situation indicates even more than before that the fighter aircraft investment is carried out according to the plan the Storting has laid down. F16 has served Norway well for over 40 years, but has now been phased out. Nor is there any basis for claiming that F16 will meet the needs decided by the Storting. What other countries are doing is not being addressed. They have been and are at completely different stages in their processes, and we understand that this will not create cost changes for Norway. ”
Increased tensions? The defense budget proposition states that "Norwegian Contributions to Security Sector Reform include targeting NATO partner countries, in particular the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Georgia countries, "and contributing" to strengthening their own security and developing a stronger NATO by preparing potential nations for membership or partnership ". We ask Hallesaker whether or not this also contributes to disarmament and increased tensions, when Russia has made it clear that they regard NATO enlargement as a serious threat to its national security.
“These are countries that want closer ties with European countries, and should themselves be able to choose their course and pace in integration into the EU, NATO and other constellations of cooperation. History has shown that countries are able to make their own decisions, ”says Hallesaker. "History also shows what counter-reactions Russia has made to the countries. These countries need support – and Norway is willing to give. Security sector reform has been an integral part of our cooperation, and includes various measures to promote democratic control of the Armed Forces in the countries, as well as their contribution to international operations. ”
Human Rights Watch has documented that both Kurdish and Shi'ite forces allied with the Iraqi government have committed abuses against Sunni Arabs. Does not Norway through its military training of Iraqi soldiers contribute to the formation of a sectarian civil war?
“The situation in Iraq is complex, without any simple solutions. Iraqi authorities have been clear that they need international military assistance to resist and eventually fight ISIS. ISIS 'brutal conduct in Syria and Iraq and the terrorist group's recruitment of European citizens are an example of our security being increasingly influenced by unconventional threats and non-state actors – such as terrorist groups and other criminal networks. As part of the broad international coalition, in which regional players also play a key role, Norway supports the broad involvement in the fight against ISIS along several tracks: political, ideological, economic and military, including with training, ”Hallesaker replies.