Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp) says that the defence budget will be increased by around NOK 3.8 billion annually until 2026. Norway must also meet NATO’s 2 percent target.
It was announced at a press conference on Tuesday with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap), Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (Sp) and Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp), that these were the government’s plans for the Armed Forces going forward.
As a result of the (Sp) Ukraine war and the tense situation in Europe, there will now be an increase in the defence budget. Above all, they want to achieve NATO’s goal that all member states must spend at least 2 percent of GDP (gross national product) on defence.
NTB by Bibiana Piene, Ole Henrik Tveten and Daniel Lundby Olsen report on the case.
We have both a short-term and a long-term need for a strengthening of the Armed Forces. We must have more soldiers, more ammunition and more equipment, said Defence Minister Gram.
Both re-prioritisation and increases have been initiated after the war in Ukraine broke out, including measures for the Armed Forces to function better right now by facilitating operational activities, he further pointed out.
Norway must meet NATO’s target that 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) should go to defence by 2026.
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has shaken Europe’s security. We must continue to strengthen the Norwegian defence and the defence alliance we are part of. That is why we are announcing that Norway will spend at least 2 percent of Norway’s gross domestic product on defence by 2026, Støre said at the press conference.
Increase of NOK 3.8 billion annually
The defence budget must therefore be increased by around NOK 3.8 billion annually until 2026, Gram added.
Committing Norway to NATO’s two percent target is very important for our national security. We are now working on a new long-term plan for the defence sector which will be presented next year. It will solidify the escalation plan on how we are going to strengthen the Armed Forces, he said.
The Minister of Defense pointed out that both re-prioritisation and increases have been initiated after the war in Ukraine broke out in February last year.
We have both a short-term and a long-term need for a strengthening of the Armed Forces. We must have more soldiers, more ammunition and more equipment, Gram emphasised.
Haven’t had a plan
Norway is among the countries that have not reached the target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence, which NATO agreed on in 2014.
Per capita, Norway spends the most on defence after the United States in NATO. But we are one of the countries that has not had a plan to reach the two percent target. We have that now, continued Støre.
The Prime Minister emphasised that it is important for Norway to launch its defence investment before the NATO summit in Vilnius in Lithuania in July. There, Norway must report on the target and how it will be achieved.
We want to lay the foundations for a defence for our time, he said.
Can be demanding
Støre says that Norwegian GDP fluctuates more than other countries’ GDP and that this makes it difficult to manage according to a target of spending 2 percent.
During the pandemic, when GDP fell, Norway had expenditure for defence purposes of 2 percent of GDP. Even though we have strengthened defence by NOK 11 billion, the share of GDP in 2023 has come in well below 2 percent. We will experience that from year to year, but the point now is that we have a plan, said Støre.
He goes on to say that in a year with extraordinarily high incomes, we must stick to the fact that we have a course.
This year, when the income from oil and gas may be low, we may come up short, but must still maintain that course. We want to have long-term planning, a balanced escalation, and we will therefore focus on a trend that will take us to 2 percent, said Støre.
Can be scarce
Many will think that NOK 3.8 billion annually is small in this context. At least if the amount is not adjusted for inflation. The backlog in the Armed Forces is large, after many years of sub-allocations.
There are enormous tasks ahead, both in the form of very expensive acquisitions of equipment such as air defences, new tanks, new submarines and other things.
In addition, there is a lack of maintenance, in training, there is also a need for a significant (and expensive) build-up of the ammunition stores. This and much more.
With an overall goal of spending NOK 11 billion more by 2026, there is also a question of how much of this amount the Støre government will “push on” until after 2024.
That way, most of the burden can be left to another government, which is not an unknown move in such a context.