Norway must ramp up defence spending in the face of a potential war with Russia within three years, the country’s armed forces chief has warned.
General Eirik Kristoffersen said in an interview with Dagbladet, a Norwegian newspaper, that time was running out to build up the nation’s defences in the face of an increasingly unpredictable Russia.
“The current window of opportunity will remain open for a year or two, perhaps three, which is when we will have to invest even more in our defence,” Gen Kristoffersen said in the interview, published on Sunday.
“We do not know what will become of Russia in three years. We need to prepare a strong national defence to be able to meet an uncertain and unpredictable world,” he added.
The Norwegian general said Moscow was building up its weapons stockpiles much faster than Nato allies had anticipated, adding to the sense of urgency.
Norway, a Nato member, does not currently meet the alliance’s requirement of spending two per cent of GDP per year on defence, but is aiming to reach that goal by 2026.
It is the latest in a string of warnings from Western leaders that open conflict with Russia on the eastern flank is increasingly becoming the biggest security threat facing Europe.
Last week Boris Pistorius, the German defence minister, said Vladimir Putin may choose to attack a Nato country within five to eight years.
Earlier this month, General Micael Bydén, the head of the Swedish armed forces, said Swedes needed to “prepare themselves mentally” for the outbreak of open conflict with Russia.
Nato leaders are particularly concerned about Putin’s apparent goal of expanding the former Russian empire, which could lead to attempted land grabs in countries that border Russia and its key ally Belarus, such as Finland and the Baltic states.
Finland has already joined Nato in anticipation of that threat, while Sweden’s request to join the alliance was poised to be approved on Tuesday by the parliament of Turkey – which as a Nato state has a veto on new countries becoming members.
Hungary, an increasingly close ally of Russia despite being both a Nato member and EU state, has still not granted approval for Swedish membership.
Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, says he has invited his Swedish counterpart to Hungary to “negotiate” on Nato membership.
But later on Tuesday, Sweden’s foreign minister insisted there was “no reason to negotiate” with Hungary on Nato accession.