Wars Scenario Norway

War in Norway: Scenario-Based Analysis of Humanitarian Needs

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A recent Norwegian study on wartime civilian protection explores three distinct scenarios: a prolonged pressure campaign against the Nordic region, the threat of war on Norwegian soil, and active warfare within Norway. The study highlights several critical factors essential for safeguarding the civilian population during such conflicts.

Imagine a war in Norway. What humanitarian needs may arise? How can civilians be best protected? These are the questions that the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) explored on behalf of the Norwegian Red Cross through a scenario-based structured discussion involving defence and emergency preparedness actors, reported in Stig Rune Sellevåg’s, Tord Apalvik’s and Sigrid Dahl’s paper Krig i Norge – scenariobasert analyse av humanitære behov [War in Norway: Scenario-based analysis of humanitarian needs].

The study highlights crucial factors for protecting the civilian population during crises and war. Maintaining critical societal functions and self-preparedness is vital, as community resilience forms the foundation for meeting humanitarian needs and safeguarding civilians.

The police and health services will face immense pressure, and maintaining hospital operations will be challenging. Credible and coordinated information to the public is essential for security, and it must be clear, fact-based, and as honest as possible. Transparency about priorities, while balancing operational security for military forces, is crucial. Measures to counter misinformation and disinformation will also be necessary. Leadership and the ability to demonstrate political and military action can provide motivation and hope. Authorities must be able to communicate with the public even if electronic communication is disrupted, requiring alternative communication solutions and plans for cooperation and coordination. Civil-military cooperation, with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and relationships, is crucial for effective response. Evacuation plans must be well-prepared to avoid uncontrolled self-evacuation, especially in areas of military operations.

Finnish Marines with the Nylands Brigade prepare to move out on skis after landing near Alta, Norway during Exercise Nordic Response 24. (Image: NATO)

Scenario 1: Long-term Pressure Campaign Against the Nordic Region

In this scenario, a foreign state initiates a protracted pressure campaign against the Nordic region, including Norway. The campaign involves information warfare, use of migrants to create pressure at border posts, jamming, and covert sabotage. A significant escalation occurs due to a digital attack on Norway’s electronic communications infrastructure.

  • Security in the Population: Ensuring credible and coordinated information to create security is paramount. Authorities must provide clear, fact-based, and honest information. Alternative communication solutions are necessary to address the loss of electronic communications. Measures to counter misinformation and disinformation are vital, and editor-controlled media with high trust levels will play a crucial role.
  • Humanitarian Needs: Safeguarding vulnerable groups during a large-scale digital attack on communications infrastructure is critical. Municipalities, especially in the north, will face challenges in supporting these groups. Strengthening health services and ensuring basic necessities like heat, water, food, and medicine are essential. Plans must account for potential hoarding due to loss of payment services, and self-preparedness measures should be in place
  • Civil-Military Cooperation: Joint situational awareness, clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and cooperative relationships are essential for credible and coordinated information and crisis management measures. Coordination structures like county emergency preparedness councils must function without electronic communication solutions and have access to alternative means of communication. Trust and relationship-building between agencies and emergency preparedness actors are crucial, facilitated by civil-military exercises.

Scenario 2: When War on Norwegian Territory is Threatened

This scenario involves an armed attack by a foreign state on a NATO country in Norway’s neighboring areas, triggering a NATO Article 5 situation and the need to deter a military attack on Norway.

  • Safety in the Population: Mobilizing resistance, national solidarity, and clear, honest communication about priorities is vital. The information must be anchored in professional authorities, with decision-making capacity emphasized. Self-preparedness advice may be necessary to relieve pressure on critical functions, and strengthening psychological resilience is crucial.
  • Humanitarian Needs and Civil Protection Measures: Ensuring basic needs like security, food, water, heat, medical services, and payment services is essential. Strengthening civil defense, emergency services, and health services is necessary, along with reprioritizing civilian resources to support defense efforts. Large regional differences are expected, and maintaining normal society to the greatest extent possible is emphasized. Protecting key persons in critical functions is crucial, and preparations for potential refugee influxes and targeting minorities are necessary.
  • Evacuation: Challenges related to self-evacuation and mandatory evacuation must be addressed. Good evacuation plans synchronized with military planning are essential to prevent uncontrolled self-evacuation. Recipient municipalities must have sufficient capacity to accommodate evacuees, and coordinated information from national and local authorities is crucial. Balancing the nation’s need to hold territory with the civilian population’s need for protection is a central dilemma, with both “too early” and “too late” evacuation having consequences.
  • Civil-Military Cooperation: Synchronizing military planning through the National Emergency Preparedness System and maintaining the distinction between civilian and military roles is important. Mechanisms for total defense resources and clarified decision-making authority are emphasized.
Swedish Navy CB-90 fast assault boats shove off from a rocky shore near Tovik, Norway prior to Exercise Nordic Response 24. (Image: NATO)

Scenario 3: Acts of War on Norwegian Territory

Germans invading Norway in 1940.

In scenario 3, deterrence fails, and a foreign state attacks Norway, targeting civilian critical infrastructure and land forces in Finnmark. The foreign state also threatens to use non-strategic nuclear weapons against NATO.

  • Security in the Population: Clarifying civil protection measures, including self-protection, notification of attacks, and shelters, is crucial. Alternative communication solutions are necessary if digital solutions fail. Transparency about priorities and actions aligned with those priorities will create trust. Demonstrated capacity for political and military action can provide motivation and hope.
  • Humanitarian Needs and Civil Protection Measures: Ensuring basic resources like food, water, medicine, and sanitary items, especially in Finnmark, is vital. The local communities will likely be weak and dispersed, with vulnerable critical infrastructure highlighted. Access to health care and medical evacuation will be challenging, but NGOs will likely be active. Hard priorities in the health service, resource priorities, coordination of efforts, and management of the dead and injured are important factors.
  • Maintaining Hospital Operations: Maintaining hospital operations and protecting hospitals will be challenging. Hospitals have plans for restructuring and increasing capacity, but the entire health service will be strained. Protecting key functions like surgery is crucial, and overall guidelines and priorities are needed. Hospitals will be vulnerable to targeted attacks, and evacuating hospitals will be difficult. Measures to protect hospitals and maintain operations, including marking hospitals, preparing for closed hospitals, and using alternative facilities, are necessary.
  • Civilian Population in Occupied Territory: Addressing humanitarian needs in occupied territories will be challenging. The occupier may not fulfill their legal duty to safeguard humanitarian needs, and civilians may face risks such as loyalty demands, torture, and abuse. Authorities need to communicate clearly about what actions civilians should take, balancing the risk to civilians.
  • Civil-Military Cooperation: Good civil-military cooperation requires synchronized planning and clear decision-making authority. Effective use of transport resources, coordination of information, and maintaining trust in authorities are essential. Planning for the use of military forces to protect and evacuate civilians in high-intensity warfare areas is necessary.

Learnings From the War in Ukraine

Wehrmacht advancing, west of Lillehammer in April 1940. (Image: ADN-ZB/ Archiv II. Weltkrieg 1939-1945. 4556-40 PK.: Borchert)

The findings from this study align with other research on Norwegian conditions and experiences from the war in Ukraine. Norwegian society’s ability to meet humanitarian needs during crises and war is linked to the prevalence of these needs in normal situations and the vulnerability of certain groups. The study by Statistics Norway on behalf of the Norwegian Red Cross identifies ten vulnerable groups, including people with serious substance abuse problems, children exposed to abuse, asylum seekers, the elderly with dementia, people with serious mental disorders, recipients of social assistance, poor families with children, inmates, sexual and gender minorities, and people with impaired health and poor finances. The development of social and economic inequalities, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is concerning, especially for children and young people.

Emergency services play a crucial role in crisis and war, but their efforts are challenged by CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive) events. Norwegian emergency services need to improve procedures for safeguarding vulnerable groups during such events. Civil protection measures, including alerting, evacuation, and shelters, are necessary and should be reviewed in light of recent events like the war in Ukraine.

Experiences from Ukraine highlight the extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure and the importance of protecting critical infrastructure. Cyber-attacks have also affected various sectors, and the cumulative impact of these attacks is significant. The lawlessness in occupied territories and human rights violations underscore the need for effective protection measures for civilians.

How to Protect Civilians

The study by Stig Rune Sellevåg, Tord Apalvik, and Sigrid Dahl from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) provides a comprehensive analysis of the humanitarian needs that may arise from acts of war in Norway. It identifies several key factors for protecting the civilian population during acts of war in Norway:

  • 1. Maintaining Critical Societal Functions and Self-Preparedness: Society’s resilience is crucial for meeting humanitarian needs. Strengthening resilience must be viewed from a Nordic perspective, considering interdependencies between the Nordic countries. Protecting important civilian supply ports and addressing challenges from electrification and the green shift are necessary.
  • 2. Credible and Coordinated Information: Clear, fact-based, and honest information is essential for creating security. Transparency about priorities and actions aligned with those priorities will build trust. Measures to counter misinformation and disinformation are needed, and the population must be prepared for information manipulation.
  • 3. Alternative Communication Solutions: Authorities must prepare for the loss of electronic communication by making alternative communication solutions available. Plans for cooperation and coordination during such disruptions are necessary.
  • 4. Civil-Military Cooperation: Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, authority, and cooperative relationships are vital for effective civil-military cooperation. Common planning assumptions, synchronized planning, and civil-military exercises are important for building trust and relationships.
  • 5. Effective Use of Resources and Coordination: Prioritizing resources, coordinating efforts, and managing the dead and injured are critical to meeting humanitarian needs. Ensuring adequate personnel and addressing challenges related to resource scarcity are essential. Training the population and businesses in self-protection and the use of shelters is also important.
  • 6. Protection of Vulnerable Groups: Civil protection measures must safeguard all vulnerable groups, with a focus on those unable to care for themselves. Relocation of vulnerable groups may be necessary to ensure their humanitarian needs are met more easily.
  • 7. Addressing Humanitarian Needs in Occupied Territories: Plans must account for the potential lawlessness and human rights violations in occupied territories. Authorities must communicate clearly with civilians about what actions to take and balance the risks involved.
  • 8. Maintaining Hospital Operations: Protecting hospitals and maintaining their operations during war is challenging. Hospitals must have plans for restructuring and increasing capacity, and measures to protect key functions and facilities are necessary. Ensuring adequate personnel and preparing for the use of alternative medical facilities are also important.
  • 9. Effective Communication: Ensuring the population has access to reliable, fact-based information from authorities is crucial. Self-preparedness advice on source criticism should be widely known and followed.
  • 10. Trust in Authorities: Maintaining trust in authorities requires transparency, clear communication, and effective coordination of efforts. Ensuring that the population trusts the information and actions taken by authorities is vital for maintaining security and stability.

Through a scenario-based structured discussion, the study highlights crucial factors for protecting the civilian population and maintaining critical societal functions during crises and war. Effective civil-military cooperation, clear communication, and addressing the needs of vulnerable groups are essential for meeting humanitarian needs and ensuring the security and resilience of society.

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