It’s Increasingly Cold in the North

Norway’s foreign intelligence arm, the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS) has just released “Focus 2019”, its glossy, annual assessment of Norway’s current security challenges. August may seem a little late for a 2019 report, but the Norwegian agencies produce four reports a year, one from each service. The other reports are produced by: the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST), the Norwegian National Security Service (NSM) and the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB). This report has actually been available to the Norwegian services since 21 January, but has only just been published more widely.

Top of the NIS list – and no surprise – is the cyber security threat from the Russians and the Chinese. Interestingly, the NIS sees a major problem as the co-operation between China and Russia. This is an aspect of the struggle that has not been highlighted before. The NIS believes that, because of western sanctions, Russia is increasingly reliant on Chinese technology. The report states that Norway must be prepared for: “a stronger Chinese presence near Norwegian borders.”

Norway feels particularly vulnerable to aggresive Russian manoeuvres in the Arctic. They have noted a step change in Russian activity in the area aimed at securing natural resources and strategic stability. They have noted an increase in Russian submarine activity in the Barents Sea, a threat that will be reinforced by the arrival of Severodvinsk class submarines with the Russian Northern Fleet during the next decade. These are fourth generation submarines and pose a particular problem.

Focus 19 and the other Norwegian agency reports are produced specifically to keep the public informed and to stimulate debate about Norwegian secret service activities and policies. There is a belief, inherent in most of the Scandinavian countries, that the proper functioning of their intelligence and security services requires informed public consent. This is the antithesis of the UK and USA where the agencies operate in secrecy and believe that the less the public knows the better. This attitude is especially prevalent in the UK. It is one of the reasons Spying Today was established.

You should be able to find a copy of Focus 2019 (in English) at:

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