Since Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik declared Norway a nation of peace in 2005, our international position as a nation of peace and humanitarian power has fallen considerably. The global peace index has long placed Norway among the most peaceful countries in the world. But in 2020 we ended up in 17th place. The peace index for 2020 provides the following main explanation for Norway's fall:
«The Global Peace Index states that Norway, a country better known for its support of global humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts, has had an increase in its militarization score, driven by exports of air defense systems, ships and advanced weaponry. As a result the country had a lower score than expected. »
On average from 2008 to 2020, Norway ends up in twentieth place in this global peace ranking. From the outside, there are obviously tensions between Norway as an arms exporter and a "peace nation".
Norwegian arms exports
For those who have followed Norwegian arms exports in recent decades, the conclusion of the Global Peace Index should not be surprising. The Norwegian arms industry went into full export mode when the internationalization of the defense market gained momentum in the 1990s.
Today, more than 75 per cent of the Norwegian arms industry's earnings come from foreign countries
For over 40 years, the Norwegian arms industry had been geared towards the needs of the Norwegian Armed Forces, knowing that this market had little room for growth. When Norway then took part in the globalization of the munitions market, the growth of the "peace nation" arms industry accelerated in earnest. The growth of the arms industry has been very strong over the last 20 years and is mainly due to exports. Export growth has also made it possible to invest in modern production and test facilities, so that Norwegian munitions can now assert themselves in the high-tech munitions market internationally. More than 75 per cent of the Norwegian arms industry's earnings today therefore come from foreign customers.
In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted 1203 licenses for the export of munitions from the Norwegian arms industry. The Norwegian arms industry's products are now exported to about 70 states – in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, Europe, North America and Australia. Last year, as many as 106 Norwegian companies reported such exports.
The two military-industrial engines in Norway are still Kongsberg Gruppen and Nammo at Raufoss. But their subcontractors have become many, and new munitions manufacturers have been established in southern and western Norway, in central Norway and northern Norway. In addition, the Norwegian arms industry has established operations in many other countries. One third of those currently employed by the Norwegian arms industry work abroad.
Although the majority of arms exports still go to the Nordic countries and our NATO allies, a world market has been opened up for Norwegian munitions exports. New markets in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa have been made available to the Norwegian arms industry, at a time marked by mutual armaments and growing conflict in these areas. Now in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, the arms industry is being driven out into the world with the government's new strategy – without the strategy receiving significant media attention or public political debate.