Norway’s Top General Proposes Cuts
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norway’s top general on Thursday proposed sweeping cuts in the nation’s military budget, saying Norway could not afford to spend more.
Norway, which rubs up against Russia, found itself on the front line during the Cold War. It is a major contributor to international peacekeeping operations with troops deployed in Kosovo and the Middle East. The Nordic country is also in the process of setting up a 3,500-member force dedicated to international duty.
``It is not with a light heart that I launch these cuts,″ Gen. Sigurd Frivold said in presenting a report titled Defense Study 2000. ``The biggest reorganization of the military since World War II has begun. It is a heavy responsibility.″
Like many European nations, Norway has heavily cut military spending in the post-Cold War era. The report outlines plans for Norway’s national defense until 2010 based on current budget levels of $2.94 billion a year.
Frivold said a major problem for military planners is that the budget remains the same, while costs increase by at least 3 percent a year.
Norway’s military spending has declined from 7.1 percent of the national budget in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed, to a current level of just over 5 percent.
The proposal includes cutting 4,000 of some 35,000 peacetime jobs, restructuring and shortening compulsory military service for the nation’s 19-year-old men and closing or merging dozens of military bases. It also called for a greater focus on technology, rather than manpower, and on international commitments, such as peacekeeping operations.
The study raised concerns that Norway, one of two NATO nations bordering Russia, would no longer be able to contribute to its defense.
Frivold said the report, presented to Defense Minister Bjoern Tore Godal, simply addresses realities.
``The military has no choice,″ Frivold said. ``From our side, this is no wish list or recommendation about what we need, but a description of what kind of defense is possible with the current budget framework.″