Dr. Paal Hilde, Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies
Dr. Paal Hilde is Associate Professor and Head of Section for Norwegian Security Policy at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies (IFS).
Dr. Hilde is also a senior member of atlantic-community.org. His research interests include Norwegian security and defense policy, NATO, the High North (the Barents region and international relations in Arctic Europe), Russia and Central Europe. Moreover, he takes part in the research project "Geopolitics in the High North".
Dr. Hilde holds Master degree in Russian and East European Studies and PhD in Politics from the University of Oxford (St. Antony's College). Prior to joining IFS, he worked for the Department for Security Policy at the Norwegian Ministry of Defense.
1. What are your current priorities in your work as Senior Fellow and head of IFS' Department of Norwegian Security Policy?
As our institute is a part of the Norwegian Defense University College (the defense academy), much of our effort and focus is directed towards teaching and supervision. Term is starting now in early August, when we'll welcome a fresh group of officer-students. Working with them is often very rewarding. The officers are generally not as well rehearsed in academic disciplines as a traditional MA student at a university, but many have a rich "real life" experience that often makes for very interesting and insightful MA-theses.
In terms of research, the department's and my own main priorities are NATO and the Arctic/High North. Both issues are very important to Norway and the institute has been awarded significant grants to develop research on both. The biggest programme is Geopolitics in the High North, a multi-year, multinational research programme lead by IFS. My personal biggest research passion is NATO. In particular I focus on the organisational development of NATO - notably its command structure - and the significance this has for the Alliance.
2. What is the greatest challenge to the transatlantic security today?
The greatest overall challenge Europe and North America face today is clearly the sovereign debt crisis. The economic health and strength of the "transatlantic community" is a key to this community's global role and its ability to influence and shape international developments. The major cuts in UK defense spending and subsequent questioning of the UK's ability to uphold its traditional (at least self-perceived) significance in world affairs, is but one good example of this. Even the US has to take a critical look at its global commitments. A further, long term economic weakening of North America and Europe may hasten the shift towards a more multipolar world; a world in which stronger regional powers will increasingly be able to challenge - at least regionally - the position of the US and "the West" we've been used to since the end of the Cold War. While a shift towards multipolarity is not necessarily negative, it is likely to produce a world less favourable to the interests of "the West" and potentially also to transatlantic security.
I am reminded of the emphasis in NATO's first strategic concept, DC 6/1 of 1949, that "in developing their military strength consistent with overall strategic plans the participating nations should bear in mind that economic recovery and the attainment of economic stability constitute important elements of their security." (point 5 c, emphasis added). While security and defense clearly could be prioritised higher in Europe, at the expense of say agricultural subsidies, even such a shift has its limits. Economic health is a precondition for the long term development of security and defense capability.
3. How can Europe and North America forge a more effective partnership?
There are and will be probably for the foreseeable future important differences in political perception that will differentiate particularly the US from most other members of NATO/the transatlantic community at large. Some of these differences might be aggravated by a strengthening of the right wing in US politics (notably the Tea Party movement). The potential for a more effective partnership is, however, clearly there. To give but one example: defense procurement. The EU has made through EDA potentially significant steps towards creating a single European defense market. While this may foster rationalisation in the European defense sector, the case for greater cooperation and (even more important) real competition for contracts across the Atlantic, is also evident.
4. How would you evaluate the cooperation of transatlantic actors in the High North?
Quite contrary to the sensationalist coverage often found in the media and some think tank and academic fora, stakeholder relations in the Arctic, or High North (which from a European perspective means principally the wider Barents Sea region), are good. There is broad agreement that the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) form the basis for governance in the region; a fact perhaps most clearly evinced by the recent border agreement between Russia and Norway. The Arctic Council has established itself as the prime pan-Arctic forum for cooperation. There are obviously still differences among the states in the region. For example: Iceland and Norway in particular differ with Canada in their view of what role NATO could have in the Arctic, with the former more positive than the latter. Canada has also unlike its traditional allies been strongly opposed to including the EU (and others, e.g. China) as permanent observers in the Arctic Council. In both these cases Canada's position has been closer to Russia's than to the other Arctic states. These differences do not, however, diminish the overall conclusion that the Arctic is to a much greater degree a region characterised by cooperation, than by conflict.