Op-ed: Prepare–don’t spread fear

Fear does not strengthen our defense

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre

Photo: Javad Parsa / NTB
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre believes that the rhetoric around the security situation in Norway should be factual and sober. It is a wise starting point, writes Folkebladet in an editorial.

Lead Editorial

Politicians, the leadership of the Norwegian Armed Forces, and others who analyze the prospect of war should encourage us to be prepared. But for the authorities, it is a difficult balancing act—to ensure that Norway is prepared for war, while being careful so as not to spread unnecessary fear. This balance has also been strongly challenged in our neighboring country recently.

Micael Bydén, supreme commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, created headlines when he said people should prepare for war. “On an individual level, you have to mentally prepare,” Bydén told Swedish TV 4.

The background was that the Swedish defense leadership believes that the security situation in Europe and the world does not appear to change for the better in 2024.

Sweden’s Minister for Civil Defense Carl-Oskar Bohlin followed up: “There could be war in Sweden. All Swedish citizens must contribute to strengthening the country’s resilience,” he urged.

According to SVT, Sweden’s public television broadcaster, the Swedish government has asked the emergency preparedness authorities to prepare for a possible war.

Several politicians in Norway have recently made clear statements about the likelihood that Norway, too, could be affected by war. Sylvi Listhaug (Progress Party) has stated that “there is every reason to fear a major war.” Guri Melby (Liberal Party) has asked what people will do if they see foreign warships in the fjord.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor Party) believes this is an irresponsible manner of speech. Støre and Listhaug recently met for a debate in “Politisk kvarter” on NRK. The two agree that the world is more dangerous than it has been in a very long time. But they disagree on the rhetoric, not least from a political point of view.

The war in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Palestine dominate the news, and many people are emotionally affected, feeling distraught and powerless when they see children and civilians being killed. Many are also afraid that the war will affect Norway. A major war between NATO and Russia in which Norway could be attacked is part of this fear scenario.

While we must accept the gravity of the situation and mentally prepare for it to become more dramatic also for Norway, we must also avoid the proliferation of fear. Fear can lead to action paralysis as well as overreaction. And fear does not strengthen our defenses. Therefore, authorities and politicians must choose their words carefully when they speak of the prospect of war.

The prime minister believes the rhetoric should be sober and factual about the actual situation. This is a wise starting point. He is also right in his analysis that Russia is not interested in a war with NATO right now. It is therefore unfortunate and incorrect to give the impression that a war affecting Norway could be right around the corner.

In a more unpredictable and unsafe world, we must have a high level of readiness and be as well prepared as possible. Fortunately, a broad political majority in Norway agrees on this. Allocations to the armed forces have increased, and the government has come a long way with a new long-term plan.

At the same time, Norway’s defense capability is far from where it should be. A broad agreement is needed to strengthen the armed forces. It will require tough priorities from the government and the opposition.


This article first appeared in the Feb. 20, 2024, edition of Folkebladet and was reprinted with permission. 

Translated by Ragnhild Hjeltnes. 

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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