The Russian invasion of Ukraine—now in its 16th month—has been described by the United Nations as violations of both the UN charter and the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation.
But it has also triggered the concept of self-defence: you hit me, and I’ll hit back.
A new survey by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), in June 2023 revealed that 70 per cent of people believe Norway should put up an armed resistance, if the country is attacked.
Only 14 per cent of respondents disagreed.
In addition, almost as many (66 per cent) believe that Norway should help defend a Nordic neighbour militarily, should they come under attack.
“The willingness of Norwegians to defend their neighbors is high. Our tradition of solidarity and international cooperation is something Norwegian people have been proud of historically,” said PRIO Director Henrik Urdal.
Meanwhile, the Russian invasion has also ended the longstanding concept of political neutrality when Sweden and Finland applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) last year.
Finland officially joined the Western defensive alliance in April, bringing the number of member states to 31. Although Sweden’s accession was delayed because of Turkish objections, it was still approved by NATO pending approval by the Turkish parliament.
The world’s politically neutral countries—which largely prohibit military alliances or the establishment of foreign military bases, include Austria, Switzerland, Ireland and Japan, among others.
The willingness to defend Nordic neighbors was found to be equally high in a recent Swedish survey, a historically neutral country, but is now joining NATO.
The Swedish Survey, conducted in 2022 in collaboration with the Swedish Defence Research Agency and Statistics Sweden, focused on results related to the emergency preparedness ‘willingness to defend’ among the general public.
The results are compared with a corresponding survey conducted in 2018. The survey indicates that the public’s willingness to defend is strong, at least in relation to the personnel needs of the Armed Forces and other organizations.
“The willingness to defend appears to be stronger if it concerns the defense of Sweden than if it concerns the defense of a neighboring Nordic country.”
It is not obvious, based on the results of the survey, whether the emergency preparedness of the households is good or not. The reason is that there is as of yet no established measure, the survey revealed.
“Having said that, it can still be stated that more people have taken actions to be better prepared for crises and war since 2018, but these actions are not matched by an increased ability to cope without external supplies of water, food and heat. Access to water appears to be a bigger concern than access to food,” according to the survey.
Peace diplomacy vs. the Ukraine war
Meanwhile, the PRIO survey on Norway was carried out by YouGov in June also to assess Norwegian attitudes on war and peace-related to Nordic security and Norwegian peace diplomacy.
The survey sought out attitudes on Norway’s position as a peace mediator. It found that one-third of respondents believe Norwegian diplomacy has contributed to ending conflict, and almost 40 per cent think the Norway’s international reputation has been strengthened by its peace diplomacy.
Furthermore, over 40 per cent of those asked would support holding peace talks between Russia and Ukraine in Oslo, should it come to that.
“Peace diplomacy has been central to Norway’s foreign policy in the past. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put wars between states back on the global agenda. For Norway, war has moved much closer to home.”
“We are entering a new geopolitical era. Norwegian foreign policy is shifting focus from international peace efforts to security politics, and the ramifications of this are just beginning to play out,” said Urdal.
PRIO will discuss the future of Nordic security with Stefan Löfven, the former Swedish Prime Minister, and Knut Storberget, Chair of the Norwegian Defense Commission, at Arendalsuka next week, and what this new landscape will look like.
More details on PRIO’s planned events are below.
- The survey results related to Nordic security will be presented at Nordic security: Norway and Sweden—differences and similarities—on Tuesday, 15 August, at Den Lille Andunge.
The survey results related to Norway peace diplomacy will be presented at Norwegian peace diplomacy: Does it have a future? Wednesday, 16 August, at Den Lille Andunge.