The Norwegian Ambassador appeared before the Scottish Affairs Committee as MPs continue gathering evidence for the report into defence in the North Atlantic and High North.
Amid growing tensions with Russia, the focus of this session was the challenges for the UK’s Arctic allies on defence and security in the North Atlantic and the High North.
The committee also considered future possibilities for collaboration with Arctic allies on defence and security matters.
Wegger Strømmen, the Norwegian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, said at the sessions.
“For us, there has been enormous change in the last year. The obvious factual thing is of course the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the invasion of Ukraine, and I will leave that out, but that has huge implications for northern Europe and for the North Atlantic, which involves the United Kingdom and Norway, clearly.
Extremely important is the fact that Sweden and Finland have asked to join NATO. It is hard to overestimate that. That was something that we spoke and thought about in theoretical terms if you go back a few decades, and you could say it was sort of a Norwegian diplomatic dream that we would all, in northern Europe, hang together. Now, all of a sudden, we are in a situation where Sweden and Finland will be members of NATO—maybe Finland a bit before Sweden. For us both, that is very important, and that will change not only the dynamic, but the strategic outlook for northern Europe, including the North Atlantic and, clearly, the northern part of the United Kingdom—for Scotland and for the maritime areas in the north of these islands.
We will have a new NATO-Russia border—a long one. If my memory does not fail me, I think we are talking about 1,400 km or something. We manage a border with Russia that is 196 km and, believe me, that is a task in itself. I would not say that we are proud of it, but we have been doing our best to manage that border through the cold war. It is not an easy one. We are helped by climatic conditions; it is a cold and dark place for much of the year but, nevertheless, it was where the Russian Federation met NATO. Now that will change. Both Finland and Sweden are modern industrialised democracies and rule-of-law-respecting countries with industrial bases and armed forces that will really change the strategic situation in northern Europe.
Coming to the west, because I represent more the western part of northern Europe, we are massively interested in the United Kingdom taking its role as a major regional power in northern Europe. You are the leading military and intelligence power in northern Europe. I did not, by that, make a comment on the integrated review and tilt to the Pacific or to the Indian ocean, but Norway is not in the Pacific or the Indian ocean and my task, on behalf of my Government, is not to talk about that, but I will talk about the North Atlantic.
If that was the sort of factual and the strategic military setting, politically-speaking, I think we are helped by a couple of other factors. Relations between the countries of northern Europe are actually very good, and they have probably improved over the last few years. There is very close collaboration there always, but there is also a sense of the practical, and that does not only relate to the invasion of Ukraine; there is a sort of political kinship, in a way, because we face so many of the same tasks. “