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The Defense Minister wanted to transfer NATO leadership to Denmark

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Chief of the Defense Staff Erik Kristofferson (TV) and Defense Minister Björn Arild Gramm (SP) in the summer of 2023. Photo: Frederik Varfjell/NTB

Defense Chief Erik Kristofferson, along with his Nordic colleagues, called for the possibility of NATO's command in Norway being transferred to Denmark – while Defense Minister Björn Arild Gram (SP) wanted to keep it in Norway, VG reported.

By making his proposal, Kristofferson contravened what should have been clearly communicated in an internal order from the Minister of Defense, according to VG information.

The location of bases and orders is a matter for the political leadership, although the NATO High Military Command makes the final decision after consultation with the NATO Defense Ministers' Meeting.

The proposal would put into effect the stable command responsibility assigned to Norway by NATO:

Since 2022, Norway has taken over and been in charge of a separate NATO command for special forces operations in northwest Europe, under the new NATO command center in the US city of Norfolk.

NATO's mission to Norway was also to integrate the special forces of the new member states, Sweden and Finland, into the NATO system.

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In the Nordic Defense Chief's proposal – which was approved by Christophersen – responsibility for this Special Forces Command was to be added to Denmark.

Opposite point of view

According to VG information, Defense Minister Björn Arild Gramm (SP) had a completely different opinion from the Chief of Defense:

He decided that a special forces command in NATO's northwest corner was something Norway wanted to keep.

From what VG understood, the professional environment in the Norwegian Armed Forces Special Forces, FS, advised against such a solution as recommended by the Nordic defense leaders.

It was the FS that was tasked by NATO to establish the core of the Special Forces Command as NATO SOCC North West, Special Operations Component Command.

Can be shared

VG was informed that Gramm had to renegotiate this with his Danish colleague after the proposal was put forward by defense chiefs internally. Norway and Denmark are now likely to take joint responsibility for the Special Forces Command, according to VG information.

– Professional military councils

VG provided the following information to Chief of Defense Erik Kristofferson:

– I provide my expert military advice to the Defense Minister, so this is a political decision within the framework of NATO decision-making processes, he wrote in an email.

VG also asked Kristoffersen to justify why he insisted on transferring SS command to Denmark. He didn't have to.

He also did not answer a question about how the political leadership would react to the proposal.

– A mission from NATO

Defense Minister Björn Arild Gram (Sp) confirms to VG that the NATO command structure and the Special Forces Command are under discussion:

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– This is a mission entrusted to Norway in NATO. Then there are some processes in NATO to look at the command structure, both at the tactical and operational level. The most important thing for us is that Norfolk is built, Gram tells VG.

– What do you think of the Minister of Defense’s desire to add a Special Forces Command to Denmark?

– We are involved in the processes, and there are a lot of discussions between the Nordic countries on how to solve this problem jointly. Taking responsibility would be difficult, and would require a lot of states. I will not delve into this matter, but I can say that we have a dialogue with Denmark, says Gram.

– But you want this command center to remain in Norway?

Norway was assigned responsibility for this command by NATO. Then there is a new debate now that Sweden and Finland are members, and we are getting new regional defense plans. But I am interested in putting Norway in good stead.

– Did you respond directly to the Chief of Defense?

“I have nothing more to say about this,” Gram answers.

Nordic countries: Defense Chief Erik Kristofferson has kept in close contact with his Nordic colleagues since Sweden and Finland turned against NATO. Here he is with (from left) Jonas Hägren of Sweden, Flemming Lintver of Denmark, and Timo Kivinen of Finland in Oslo in October 2022. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB

Post orders

HAs far as VG knows, part of the idea behind the proposal put forward by the Nordic defense ministers was to give each country command responsibility under the NATO umbrella. Everyone should get something – including new member states Sweden and Finland:

  • Norway was to assume command of air operations, something the government had long worked to achieve.
  • Finland, according to the Defense Ministers' proposal, could have a separate command for ground operations if NATO wanted to create such a regional command.
  • In the proposal, Sweden was to be given command of military logistics in the Nordic region. For many years, Norway had such a national command within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that was responsible for ensuring the availability of military materials and soldiers wherever the military command wanted them.
  • Therefore, in the defense commanders' plan, Denmark was to take charge of the Special Forces.
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