Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I am very impressed with the way you said the Norwegian last names. It's not easy to speak Norwegian as well as you did now. I guess the reason is that Mr. Roald Amundsen was here a hundred years ago, and you must really be inspired by him to speak such good Norwegian. Thank you very much.
Also thank you very much for your condolences after July 22. As you all know, a single perpetrator attacked Norway and in all our hearts. He started in the afternoon with big explosions in the city of Oslo, the government buildings, the High Court, different ministries, and after that he attacked Utoya, a summer camp for the Labour Party youth in Norway. He killed 69 young politicians, people who just wanted to make a better world.
He tried to create hate in Norway, but the opposite happened. Norway that day told all the world and all the terrorists in the world that they couldn't beat us, that we were staying together. The answer to terrorists is more democracy, but also more security. After July 22, the Norwegian government had a debate on how to bring the police and the defence sector closer together. The police are still going to run operations like this when there is an attack by terrorists, but we need to use more military efforts because terror in the future will use the tools of war, and therefore the answer needs to be more of the defence sector helping the police. But it's very important for us that the police should run a situation like this and not use military efforts without the police.
Secondly, thank you very much for your support. You should know that as a state secretary I was really involved in this situation because my stepdaughter was in Utoya. She was shot four times. We thought we would lose her, but she lived, and she's recovering now. All the phone calls and all that the Canadian people did that day and the next day were very important for not just me, but all Norwegian society. It's a reminder that the world is big but we need to stay together. When things happen in Canada we will support you, as you supported us that day. So thank you very much for your support.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for receiving me here today. I'm not sure exactly which way I should go. Should I start in Norway, Canada, Afghanistan, or Chicago? I think I will try to use five minutes to walk through some important issues for Norway.
I will start with the very hardest issue at home in Norway, which is very close to what you are talking about, the F-35. I've been in Dallas-Fort Worth and Hartford with Pratt and Whitney and in Washington talking about F-35s for the last three days. The plan is to procure approximately 52 air fighters. We have already ordered four F-35s for training. They are going to be located in the United States their whole lifetime. The first F-35 in Norway will arrive in 2018. That is the biggest investment Norway has ever made, and there's a huge debate at home in Norway. Is it correct to do something like this?
I always tell the young politicians in Norway that our grandfathers and fathers took a very important and brave decision in Norway in 1975 and 1979. Norway wasn't so rich at that time, but they found a place in the budget to procure 74 F-16 fighters 40 years ago. These fighters have been very important to Norway for two generations. The lifetime for these fighters is close to the end. We need new air fighters.
Number one, the F-35 is definitely the best candidate. We evaluated three different candidates, and the F-35 was number one in all areas. It's the best fighter in the world; 66 of them have been produced, they are flying, they are landing, they are working.
Normally the debate in Norway is, number one, can you trust all the partners, especially the United States? I want to say that my government is strongly committed to the F-35. We also know that after the F-16 procurement, we can't make a plan one year and be sure that the plan will be followed for the next 10 years. To create a fifth-generation air fighter is one of the most complicated things you can do in the world today, and there will be problems, new numbers, new figures, new statistics, next month or next year.
Our plan is to go to Parliament in March and state to Parliament that we want to make the whole decision in one pocket, to do it in one white paper, and we invite Parliament to do the whole investment now, and the procurement can start in 2018. Do I not see problems? Yes, I see a lot of problems. But the worst thing that could happen to Norway, a nation with a sea area seven times bigger than the territory, and the biggest problem, would be lack of air fighters six, seven years from now. So that is what we are going to solve.
If I had to say something negative, it would be to our good neighbours and colleagues in the United States. When the super committee failed, it sent a signal that did not give us the necessary trust and comfort. We need to see a United States even more strongly committed to the plan with a realistic budget. We are going to have a very close dialogue with the United States in the next two or three months, before we make our decision, but believe me, we are going to procure these F-35s, and I really hope that your nation will do the same. I think that Norway and Canada will cooperate very closely in the future with regard to the high north, and having the same type of equipment will make that job easier. I think we also need to be very close partners relative to this single procurement.
I hear some noise in Canada. We have exactly the same noise at home in Norway. But you have to stay on it. It's our job to give the next generation the same kind of security as my grandfather offered me and my generation at home in Norway.
So that's the F-35. It's not easy. It can't be easy to do things like this, but it's necessary. Someone has to do the job for the next generation, like you have to in Canada, and my colleagues and I do at home in Norway.
I have a few words about the high north. You know that Roald Amundsen started his expedition to the south pole a hundred years ago here in Canada. He learned the high north here in Canada--what to wear, how to use dogs, how to live in an extreme climate like that.
I think we should do more, like Roald Amundsen, to combine things in Norway and Canada, to train more together, to visit headquarters more. You should have your politicians in Parliament meet more Norwegian politicians. You're very welcome to Norway any time. I just invited Minister MacKay to Oslo in March or April. I hope he can come. We're also planning to do something together here next summer.
A Norwegian frigate is coming to Halifax, and we want to show that Norway wants to cooperate. I know that personnel from your army—your navy—is serving on board our frigates, nowadays, to learn things from the Norwegian perspective. We want to bring soldiers to your country and do exactly the same.
So my message on the high north is that, number one, we should do more together. Number two concerns Russia and NATO.
Some think there's a big difference in the message from Norway and Canada related to NATO. Should NATO take part in the high north policy? Well, NATO has been a partner in the high north policy on the Norwegian side since 1948. Without NATO, people in Norway don't feel a necessary comfort for the future. We are not able to build enough deterrents in Norway alone. We do the best we can—F-35s, submarines, perhaps the most modernized navy in Europe today—but that's not enough to have the necessary deterrence.
Therefore, we need the alliance and article 5, but we also need the feeling--mentally--that NATO is a partner in the high north. That doesn't mean that NATO needs to sail an exercise every day, but we need to know that they know what is happening up there. If something should happen in the future, NATO needs the knowledge to support Norway.
It's very important for me to underline today, colleagues, that we don't want a NATO exercise every day in the high north, but we need NATO to be aware and understand the situation, and support Canada or Norway if we need that support one day. I really hope that Norway and Canada can deal with these issues and not make them a problem but bridge each other's different positions.
Russia is no enemy. We have a good relationship with Russia. They are coming to Norway and exercising with the Norwegian army. But if you are going to understand Russia, you need to understand Russian history. We have been dealing with Russia for 100 years, but we have also been close to attack from Russia. During the Cold War there were Russian tanks on the Norwegian border. We were ready for war every day for 40 years.
Nowadays we see a positive development in Russia, but we also see Russia investing heavily in their army. They are going to increase their budget by 60% next year. They are investing in an Arctic brigade, more navy, and more fifth-generation air fighters for the future. So Russia is not just sitting there relaxing. Russia is preparing to have a strong role in the high north in the future. We need to do the same. We want to do the same with you and other NATO nations.
Finally, I have a few words related to international operations. I'm really impressed to see what Canada has done in the last ten years. You are much bigger than Norway, but you're not the biggest nation in the world. What you have been doing and offering in Afghanistan.... It's a brave country; I know that you have had great losses. You lost a soldier just one month ago. It's a heartbreaking story.
I want you to know that people in Norway really know what you are doing in Afghanistan. I also know your strategy to slowly leave Afghanistan. I feel that the Norwegian and Canadian approach is the best approach: leave slowly in a coordinated way; in together, out together. Our plan is to reduce slowly in 2012 and more in 2013. In the future, no Norwegian soldiers will be taking part in combat action in Afghanistan. But Norwegian soldiers could be good teachers and teach the Afghanistan National Army and police how to create and build a good society in Afghanistan. That is what we are going to offer: no more Norwegian war in Afghanistan, but support for the Afghanistan people in building their own army and police.
Finally, Libya is also a great success for Canada and Norway. We took part in this action because we saw, at the end of the day, that if Canadian and Norwegian politicians didn't do anything, Mr. Gadhafi would attack his own citizens. He would hurt women, children, and the people in Libya. NATO took a position and was able to react. It was first of all a success in Libya, but it was also a success for NATO. What we did in Libya together was important for so many people in Libya, for the region. But we also showed the world that NATO is relevant. NATO can offer security and build deterrence.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I'm prepared to give answers if you have any questions or comments. You have my team here: Mr. Grytting in Washington, the ambassador; and Admiral Arne Røksund, from Norway.