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Varðstaðan á Íslandi verður að taka mið af aðstæðum.

Hluti þátttakenda í NATO-skóla Varðbergs 5. mars 2022 í Háskólanum í Reykjavík.

Laugardaginn 5. mars efni Varðberg til NATO-skóla í Háskólanum í Reykjavík. Þar voru fluttir níu fyrirletsrar. Í hópi ræðumanna var Geir Ove Øby, undir-ofursti í norska hernum, fulltrúi herstjórnar NATO á Íslandi. Hér birtist erindi hans í heild.

Ministers, Ambassadors, distinguished guests,

my name is Geir Ove Øby and by profession I am a Lt Colonel in the Norwegian Army, currently posted as Joint Force Command Brunssum Liaison to the Government of Iceland. I would like to thank Varðberg for organizing NATO skolinn here in Reykjavik. And I am honored to be entitled with the opportunity to speak during the event.

As the only NATO officer located in Iceland, on a permanent basis, I have something important to address related to my Perspectives on Security to everyone attending the school, and even some of you listening into the event online.

I must admit that I might find it a bit challenging, talking to an audience from a country without military forces, about how military capabilities are connected to your security, freedom, and independence. Something we all appreciate and value, and something we are willing to preserve, with available means. Freedom, liberal democracy, and the rules-based international order are in my opinion something we need to defend—robustly, even aggressively.

Within our democratic societies, funded on common shared values, there is an expectation that some of the fundamental functions are provided by the Government.

Within different countries we monitor that the objectives on each of the Governmental functional areas varies, both in the way they are provided, and their level of ambition.

Maintaining an ability to protect their people, might stand as one of the most important governmental objectives. Either by regulating traffic on the roads, in the air or at the sea, defining regulations and certifications on dangerous activities, or by identifying and prevent hostile activities directed against individuals, an entity or the country.

A vital part of maintaining security to their people is defined as Security Policy. In my opinion a prerequisite for all other governance. If you don´t have the security, you will not be able to conduct anything else without taking into consideration effects caused by an uncertain security situation.

The aim of security policy is to secure national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political freedom.

An important aspect of security policy involves preventing and handling crises and providing lasting and stable solutions to conflicts.

The objective is often secured through several instruments of power e.g., diplomatic, information, military and economic.

Important pillars in a government’s security policy are predictable international co-operation funded on international law and co-operation with allies.

NATO is a vital part of every NATO nation´s Security Policy. So, even though Iceland has several cooperative arenas that defines their ability to develop a trustworthy security policy. From my stand, it might be obvious that I will focus on NATO.

With one of the most successful security organizations providing freedom and security for their members in about 73 years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded, in the aftermath of the second world war, to build on the lessons learned telling us that together, we were able to increase our security beyond the security that each nation could obtain by themselves.

In 1949, the primary aim of the North Atlantic Treaty – NATO’s founding treaty – was to create a pact of mutual assistance to counter the risk that the Soviet Union would seek to extend its control of Eastern Europe to other parts of the continent.

Every signatory nation agreed that solidarity and protection of the nations key interests and values was at the heart of the Treaty, effectively making Article 5 on collective defence a key component of the Alliance.

Article 5 provides that if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.

Article 5

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

The Icelandic society have over time been strongly influenced by Christian values. Religion in Iceland has been predominantly Christian, since the adoption of Christianity as the state religion by the Althing under the influence of Olaf Tryggvason, the king of Norway, in the year 999/1000.

Rationales for war based on Christian ethics can be found in the writings of theologians, such as St. Augustine (354–430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1224/25–1274), whose Summa Theologiae (1265/66–1273) outlined the justifications for war and discussed the acts, it is permissible to commit in wartime.

St Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the most influential theologians of the last 1,000 years. Recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as its foremost Western philosopher and theologian.

Treatment of just war in Summa Theologiae Secunda-Secundae, Question 40 (“De bello”) bears the title, “Whether waging war is always sinful?” This creates the impression that the article’s main purpose was to show that resort to force is usually sinful, although occasions may arise when it will be justified.

The single text where Thomas expresses his thought concerning the permissibility of armed violence, with reference to the dual requirement of church and state, is his commentary on Matthew 5:39, “Do not resist evil, if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the left also.” After noting that this expression is part of a sequence on revenge. In the prior verse (Matthew 5:38), Jesus referred to a rule in the Old Testament called the lex talionis, often summarized as „eye for an eye.“ The point of „eye for an eye“ was that punishment is to be proportional to the crime, rather than an ever-escalating cycle of revenge.

Thomas’s response was two-pronged. Against the error of the heretics, he argued that God did not intend to prohibit resistance to evil when it is undertaken for love of the public good. The point of the evangelical command was rather to reduce the flaming up of revenge on behalf of one’s violated private good. “Nothing,” he concludes, “is more apt to conserve human society than removing from man the power of causing harm in private

The Just War theory, set out conditions against which to judge whether a war should be waged and if it could be justified.

  • The war must have a just cause – e.g., against invasion, or for self-defense – and not to acquire wealth or power.
  • The war must be declared and controlled by a proper authority, e.g., the state or ruler.
  • The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil, with the aim of restoring peace and justice after the war is over.

Based on the common Christian values adapted by the people of Iceland, developed through generations, and strongly influenced by the church, it would be seen as morally correct to use necessary force, to prevent evil in Iceland.

A nation’s ability to project force, is usually found among their military capabilities.

Basically, military capabilities can be defined within three main categories:

  • Sensors
  • Effectors
  • Command and control

Which all are supported by supporting capabilities within sustainment, engineering, and communications.

The main function of a military sensor is to identify everything of importance related to understand the situation. This could be environmental factors like roads, bridges, traffic, sea state and weather. But most of the sensors will be dedicated to search and identify activity or objects that potentially could pose a threat to our self. Sensors could be a person, a dog, a surveillance camera, a radio, a drone, an airplane, a ship, a sonar, a satellite, a computer, or a radar. There are unlimited numbers of ways to build and operate a functional sensor. In Iceland you operate the four NATO radars, which integrated with other sensors creates a picture of ongoing air activity in Europe and North America. In some cases, they might be able to detect incoming guided or ballistic missiles, but there are of course developed much better sensors to identify those threats, for instance the AEGIS radar system, which also are operated by NATO today.

An effector is activated when you need to create an effect on something you believe could limit your freedom of maneuver or poses a possible threat to yourself. An Effector could be a person, a weapon, a weapon system, such as an aircraft, remotely controlled drone, a tank, a laser, a radio transmitter, a mine, or a missile defence battery.

Some effectors can be operated by man and others could be preprogrammed to cause the effect without physical involvement, except the sensor itself. On fast incoming objects it might be necessary to have preprogrammed effectors to handle the threat because of the time sensitiveness.

Command and control are necessary to evaluate the situation based on available sensor data and to make necessary decisions about utilizing available effectors. Command and control could be determined by a single soldier himself, based on his mandate, mission, Rules of Engagement, and authority, but usually command and control are conducted within higher echelons like joint operational headquarters. Even though many military capabilities could be operated automatically without human involvement, considerations should always be taken related to avoid possibility of creating undesired effects unintentionally.

In Althingi‘s 145th  Legislative Session, 2015-2016, Parliamentary document 1166 – 327th  matter, you will find the Parliamentary resolution on a national security policy for Iceland, and I quote:

The Icelandic government’s national security policy is to be based on the obligations set out in the United Nations Charter, its guiding principles being the fundamental values of the nation, democracy, and respect for law as the basis of the state, international law, humanitarian considerations and the protection of human rights, universal equality and sustainable development, disarmament, and the peaceful solution of disputes. A fundamental premise of the policy should be Iceland’s position as an island nation with a small population that has neither the capacity nor the desire to maintain an army and ensures its security and defence through active collaboration with other nations and within the framework of international organizations.

Iceland does not have the capacity nor the desire to maintain an army”. If Iceland can meet the security demand of the nation without any military capabilities, I believe that this is a great solution. Consequences of miscalculating could be fatal.

In Iceland I have heard inhabitants speaking of consequences by a hostile intervention into the country, in ways like they believe that everyday life will continue. This was probably correct in 1940 when UK made their intervention into Iceland on the 10th of May. We can hardly call it hostile. But if the only hostile intervention and following occupation the people in Iceland remember is an occupation where everyday life barely was affected, and economy was going well, it is likely that someone believe that this is how a coming intervention will incur.

The Security Policy for Iceland embraces points of emphasis, where the following focuses on ability to defend Iceland, and I quote:

  1. That membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance shall continue to be a key pillar in Iceland’s defence and the principal forum of Western collaboration in which Iceland participates on a civil basis in order to promote its own security and that of other NATO member states.
  2. That the 1951 Defence Agreement between Iceland and the United States of America continue to guarantee the defence of Iceland and that work will continue to develop collaboration on the basis of the agreement, taking account of military threats and also other risk factors in which mutual defence and security interests play a substantial role.

In the original Bilateral Defence agreement with the US from 1951, you will in article 1 find the following text, and I quote:

The United States on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in accordance with its responsibilities under the North Atlantic Treaty will make arrangements regarding the defence of Iceland subject to the conditions set forth in this Agreement. For this purpose and in view of the defence of the North Atlantic Treaty area, Iceland will provide such facilities in Iceland as are mutually agreed to be necessary.

In the Amendment to the General Annex of the agreement from September 2006, article 1 was replaced by the following, and I quote:

The United States may enter upon and use for military purposes, in furtherance of the defence of Iceland and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its duly authorized delegate, the areas to be agreed upon between the parties hereto such areas being herein referred to as the agreed areas and further for these same purposes the United States shall be given such access to airfields, ports and other places within Iceland and the adjacent water and air spaces as is agreed to by the parties at any given time to be required by the military situation for the defence of Iceland, for the defence of the North Atlantic Treaty area, or for other purposes as may be agreed to by the parties.

Written in September 2006 when the US Forces left Keflavik and Iceland, it was probably necessary to change the Defence agreement General Annex into a format that was possible to meet, without any military capabilities present on a permanent basis.

However, NATO will, and the United States will most likely, on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in accordance with its responsibilities under the North Atlantic Treaty, send their sons and daughter educated and trained, and gathered into military capabilities ready to defend Iceland within days of an imminent or actual hostile action directed towards the country. Prepared to fight, and with dedication do what they can, to defend your peace, freedom, integrity and protect your values.

As there are none permanent presence of military capabilities in Iceland today, Iceland needs to be prepared to handle security treats by themselves, until they can be supported by allied forces. Some incidents might be below the threshold of allied support, like information operations, offensive cyberoperations, minor hybrid aggressions and terrorism.

When allied forces is called to support the situation in Iceland it is important to understand preconditions for success. From a military perspective, it is very difficult to deploy military capabilities into an area that has been taken over by an opponent, security of landing zones, airports and harbor’s is of particular importance. Iceland’s ability to secure areas for Reception, Staging and Onward Movement of allied forces is of critical value to set conditions for the support needed for the Defence of Iceland by allied forces.

Perspectives of security might differ substantially based on the situation and must always be seen through the eyes of the person that makes his stand. If you are located in central Europe, you might have focus on the emerging threats coming from the East, if you are located in Turkey, you might be focusing on the threats emerging from the south, and if you are located in Norway, you might be focused on the activity in the Barents Sea.

Iceland is located far away from most of the current threats and conflict areas confronting the security within NATO. Everyday monitoring of threats against NATO might not involve Iceland much. On the other and when we are conducting planning for the defence of Iceland, the possible security challenges of Iceland and the North Atlantic is heavily discussed and analyzed, and appropriate attention is provided to develop contingencies for maintaining the security in Iceland.

Lack of in place security forces in Iceland makes allied contingency planning challenging, while it also makes Iceland vulnerable for emerging security challenges.

This concludes my briefing,


Thank you for inviting me to this event, remember what I said on my perspectives on security, and thank you for your patience and enjoy the speakers to come!

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