Interview with Frank Bakke-Jensen, Minister of Defence of Norway

07 July 2021

Following the NATO Summit 2021 in Brussels, the NATO PA caught up with ministers who were closely involved in the meeting to share their insights on the Summit's outcomes. As former members of the NATO PA, they also address how parliamentarians and the NATO PA can best support implementation of NATO's ambitious agenda going forward.

Three questions with Frank Bakke-Jensen, Minister of Defence of Norway and NATO PA alumnus:

Frank Bakke-Jensen was an active alternate member of the Norwegian Delegation in the NATO PA’s Defence and Security Committee from 2013 to 2016 and has addressed the Assembly on several occasions as Minister of Defence.

1.    Expectations were high for this Summit, particularly in light of the ongoing major shifts in the international security environment. How do you rate the overall outcome? 

The NATO Summit in June demonstrated NATO‘s importance as the bedrock of transatlantic security. We appreciate the clear message from Washington on the importance of the transatlantic bond, and the strong emphasis on close cooperation and consultation with Allies.

To meet a challenging security environment, it is very positive that leaders agreed at the NATO Summit to start the work to update NATO‘s Strategic Concept. The Strategic Concept is an essential document for NATO, naming the priorities for the long-term adaptation of the Alliance to a new security environment. The NATO 2030 agenda provides vision and direction for this work.

2.    What were Norway's key priorities, and how do you assess the decisions made on these?

For Norway, key priorities include NATO‘s continued military adaptation and the strengthening of NATO‘s political dimension.

We have enhanced our collective ability to defend our members. We have developed improved defence plans and a more responsive command structure and forces. However, further modernisation and reforms are still needed. Moving forward, ensuring responsiveness is key. This means having the right forces at the right time. This includes a more predictable and reliable provision of forces for collective defence and recognition of geography as a key factor. We must ensure continued political commitment to this task.

The North Atlantic Council should be the primary arena for political consultations on all security issues. Our strength as a military Alliance rests on our political unity and cohesion.

Another priority for Norway is the High North. Allied activity and presence in our region is an important element of our deterrence posture. It is important that this activity is conducted in a coordinated manner in order to achieve desired effects and to avoid unintended escalation. This requires consultation and cooperation on a political and military level, both within NATO and bilaterally.

3.    Based on your experience, including as a former member of the NATO PA, how can parliamentarians and the NATO PA best support implementation of the ambitious agenda agreed at the Summit?

First, NATO's military adaption must continue. To achieve this, political commitment is vital and the support of the NATO PA is important in this endeavour. We need to fund the ambitions we have collectively agreed. This includes increasing NATO’s common funding and ensuring fair burden sharing.

Second, the revision of the Strategic Concept provides an excellent opportunity to further energize NATO’s transatlantic bond. Parliamentarians and NATO PA can contribute to this end by raising the public profile of the Strategic Concept: they can do so by highlighting why the Strategic Concept is important, and how the transatlantic bond remains vital for allied security today and in the future.

Read also