Meet Europe’s Rising Defense Stars
Below the radar, a new generation of female European leaders is offering bold ideas on defense and taking political risks.
Sitting in Washington, it is often too easy to look across the Atlantic and think there is no one serious about defense. European leaders are preoccupied with internal questions like the future of the European Union. Their publics remain skeptical of using military force. And despite years of stern warnings by U.S. defense leaders about the capabilities gap between the U.S. and Europe and demands that Europeans boost defense investments, most countries still spend less.
But it would be a mistake to belittle the defense debate in Europe – in fact, recently a new generation of European defense leaders has emerged. They are offering bold defense ideas and willing to take political risks. Although they don’t represent a new consensus yet, they are injecting fresh dynamism and creativity into the Transatlantic security alliance. Watching and listening to them, one can envision a different future.
One such leader is Norway’s Defense Minister, Ine Eriksen Soreide. In office since 2013, she has quickly established herself as one of NATO’s rising young (age 38) stars. She is well respected in Washington’s defense circles in and out of government and has pushed Norway to spend more on defense, hold tough against Russia and stay engaged in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS.
Last week in Oslo at a conference of American and European security experts, Soreide warned that even if Moscow backs down from its actions in Ukraine today, Russia will pose a problem for years to come, compelling Europeans to adapt and maintain a strong defense. “We must take the situation as it is,” she said, in a speech, “not as we wish it to be.”
And while an aggressive Russia is a central challenge for a country like Norway on NATO’s northern flank, Soreide also stressed the importance of fighting ISIS, which she rightly described as a “severe terrorist threat to all democracies.”
Norway is putting actions behind its minister’s words. The Norwegian military has been one of the most active in responding to Russia’s provocations. Last year its troops deployed with U.S. soldiers to Latvia for training and exercises and it will contribute to the Baltic Air Policing mission. In Iraq, Norway will deploy trainers and headquarters officers to help bolster the coalition effort there. And even further afield, last year for first time Norway contributed an Aegis frigate to the Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, maritime exercise off Hawaii .Soreide had championed Norway’s participation to show that Pacific security was a common Transatlantic interest and that the U.S.“rebalancing” strategy need not come at the expense of Europe...