Oct. 9 (UPI) — Norway will increase its 2020 defense budget by $218 million, the government announced, but it does not include participation in NATO’s missile defense system.
The $6.56 billion defense budget will instead include the introduction of a new short-range air defense, the acquisition of tanks, the service of F-35 fighter planes and the planned receipt of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft.
“As the result of a broad review of political and security factors, the government has decided that Norway will not consider acquiring sensors or defense missiles which can participate in NATO’s missile defense system,” the budget says.
Norway is a founding member of NATO.
The system, which began in 2011, is in use by several NATO countries, largely in the Mediterranean Sea area. Its 2020 phase is designed to upgrade its ability to counter medium- and intermediate-range missiles and potential future inter-continental ballistic missiles through the deployment of the SM-3 Block IIB interceptor.
While NATO has denied that the system is directed against Russia, Norway and Russia share a 122-mile border, and an element of Norway’s decision is a reluctance to antagonize its neighbor.
“I think [the decision] will prevent increased tension [with Russia],” Julie Wilhelmsen of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs told Norwegian news agency NTB.
On Tuesday, Norwegian defense chief Haakon Bruun-Hanssen requested another $3 billion to improve the country’s defense, in the belief that Russia could blockade Norway in the event of a conflict, resulting in a need for access for NATO reinforcements. Norway would also be expected to contribute fighter jets and large naval vessels to the NATO mission if necessary.