Norway’s defense spending will climb by 9.8 percent to $6 billion in 2016 because of fears prompted by Russia’s actions in the Arctic region and Europe, Defense News reported Friday. The extra $526 million will increase the Nordic nation’s defense spending to 1.54 percent of its gross domestic product.
“The Norwegian government takes the new security situation very seriously, and in 2016 we intend to follow up on our stated intention of strengthening the Norwegian armed forces in areas which allow its operational capabilities to grow in both the short and the long term,” Defense Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide said.
There was no mention in Norway’s new budget of the outlooks for defense spending in the short or long terms. In the 2016 budget, however, $1.5 billion would be destined for equipment purchases, while more than $390 million would be earmarked for infrastructure projects. Key aspects of the budget centered on the deployment of submarines, the purchase of F-35 aircraft and the strengthening of intelligence capabilities.
Norway’s defense budget increase comes at a moment of heightened concerns over Russian actions along European borders and within Ukraine. Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March 2014. The following month, a conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine pitting government forces against pro-Russian separatists. The Russian government has denied any direct involvement in the conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people and displaced over 1.4 million others.
A NATO member state, Norway shares an Arctic border with Russia, where officials have noted increased activity in recent weeks.
“Our neighbor in the east has built up its military capacity, also in areas close to us,” said Norwegian Adm. Haakon Bruun-Hanssen. “They have shown that they are willing to use military force to achieve political ambitions.”
Defense Minister Soreide said Oslo’s relations with Moscow had permanently changed in the wake of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.