“The Security Situation in Northern Norway is Significantly Different from That in the South”
There is currently an ongoing conflict between Tromsø municipality and the Norwegian Ministry of Defense regarding whether or not nuclear-powered submarines are to be allowed to dock at Tønsnes, near Tromsø. The MoD argues that Tromsø municipality has a duty to allow such vessels access, whereas the municipality does not want to permit this as it argues the submarines constitute a danger to security and the environment.
Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen recently spoke with Tromsø daily Nordlys and said:
“This will not damage the relationship between the USA and Norway, however, eyebrows will probably be raised in the USA regarding Tromsø believing that it can opt out of NATO. The fact that Tromsø believes others should receive these vessels, not Tromsø, should also draw attention from other municipalities.”
Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, Professor of Peace and Conflict studies at the University of Tromsø, argues that the conflict is a result of a failure in civilian-military cooperation.
“In the eyes of the MoD, at least as stated by Frank Bakke-Jensen, the MoD is in charge and the rest of society has to follow suit. There are no intermediaries or other actors who can provide input in such processes. This is very common for the MoD’s security policy in that it reflects a national perspective. That also makes it difficult to carry out a total defense approach”, she says.
The ‘total defense’ is a joint term for civilian readiness and military defense in Norway. Gjørv says the total defense is completely dependent on a functioning cooperation between civil society and the armed forces. She says this cooperation at present is run in a very top-down manner, and that this approach is not always optimal.