Norway must brace for conflict with Russia amid Sweden and Finland’s Nato bids, warns defence minister

Norway’s defence minister urged his country to be ready for a possible conflict with Russia even after the end of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said Russia might retaliate in response to Finland and Sweden‘s new Nato membership. Other Nato nations have also explicitly warned of Russia’s aggression and plans to disrupt peace in the region in the past few months.

“We must be ready that Russia may review its plans and where it deploys its forces in response to Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership," Bjørn Arild Gram said on Monday during a lecture at the Oslo Military Society Assembly.

The top official was referring to the ongoing negotiations to bring Sweden into the Nato fold as its application has been held up by Turkey and Hungary. Finland became the 31st member to join the North Atlantic bloc in April last year, triggering Russia which sees the alliance’s combined military strength as a threat.

Mr Gram said Norway’s armed forces must be prepared for conflict to break out. “We must be able to respond in a timely manner and together with allies,” he said.

Norway needs to increase its investment in national defence, he said.

He said any emerging signs of democracy have been quashed in Russia, and added that “there is no indication Russia will become like us”.

"The few Russians who are trying to protest are being thrown behind bars or sent to the war. There they are being used as cannon fodder,” he said. There is no opposition in Russia and no freedom of media or presence of civil society, which can “somehow counter the increasingly authoritarian regime”, he added.

This new Russia “will stay with us for a long time”, even after its war against Ukraine ends, Mr Gram said in his lecture.

Last month, German defence minister Boris Pistorious warned that Russia is likely to attack a Nato nation in five to eight years.

"We hear threats from the Kremlin almost every day ... so we have to take into account that Vladimir Putin might even attack a Nato country one day," he told the German outlet Der Tagesspiegel.

“Our experts expect a period of five to eight years in which this could be possible,” the German minister said.

In December, the head of Poland’s national security agency Jacek Siewiera estimated that Russia could attack Nato countries within three years in an interview with Nasz Dziennik.

An attack could come from Nato’s eastern flank which includes countries such as Poland, Estonia, Romania and Lithuania, he said, estimating they had three years to prepare for a confrontation.

All Swedish citizens must be ready for war, Micael Bydén, commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Sweden and Swedish minister of civil defence Carl-Oskar Bohlin warned.