Carina Johansen / Reuters

Norway, an Exemplar of NATO Burden-Sharing

What the Alliance Can Learn From Oslo

Throughout his unorthodox presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Washington’s European allies for failing to adequately contribute to NATO. Although the president-elect’s statements raised hackles in the United States and Europe, he did bring up important questions about whether the U.S.-established international order—with its global security guarantees—had disproportionally benefitted allies in Europe and Asia, all on the United States’ dime.

As a founding member of NATO, Norway is not one of those free riders Trump implicated. Norway has certainly benefitted from U.S. security guarantees and has, in the process, transformed itself from an impoverished nation, at the end of World War II, to one of the world’s richest today. But over the past few decades, Norway has prioritized its strategic relationship with Washington and now stands out as one of its most reliable allies.

For one, Norway has played a leadership role within NATO by providing stability and predictability to the North Atlantic, a vast region that also serves as a gateway for Russian nuclear submarines and warships capable of reaching the United Kingdom and continental Europe. Oslo has simultaneously established itself as a leader within NATO when it comes to burden-sharing; and yes, it also pays 50 percent of all costs related to U.S. tanks, armored vehicles, and other defense equipment stored in Norway as part of the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program–Norway agreement, which was reached in 2005.

Like Trump, Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide has repeatedly called for enhanced European burden-sharing in order to help Washington meet its commitment to preserve global peace and stability. At the same time, Norway successfully maintained throughout the Cold War a pragmatic relationship with its mighty Russian neighbor, with which it shares a 122-mile border. And in 2010, it even reached a demarcation agreement with Russia that seeks to strengthen neighborly relations and enhance predictability and stability in the area.

Neither does Norway take its relationship with Washington for granted, which explains its active roles the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). In 2014, Oslo demonstrated solidarity with the United States by dispatching one of its five Aegis frigates, KNM Fridtjof Nansen, to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise—the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise—which took place in and around the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of southern California. The decision at the time was to demonstrate support for President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia, as Norway’s shipping industry also benefits from preserving the freedom of navigation and the stability of the greater Pacific Rim.

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