What Ukraine Can Learn From Norway’s “Citizen Soldiers” Concept
As part of NATO’s Trident Juncture exercises, Norway is focusing on its total defense concept, harnessing people power in case of a crisis or an invasion
In remote and tranquil part of the mountainous Norwegian countryside, the modernized World War II-era defense strategy is being tested. As part of NATO’s Trident Juncture exercises, Norway is focusing on its total defense concept, harnessing people power in case of a crisis or an invasion.
“Both the military side and the civilian side they are equal players in the total defense system. They are equally important. But when we think about total defense concept it’s all those available resources, both military resources and civilian resources that combined will provide protection for the citizens in case of crisis or a war. And that is because the military alone doesn’t have the resources available for the duration of a long conflict,” Colonel Hakon Waro, commander of a Norwegian home guard district 12 said.
But this is not just about the financial aspect of defense. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that conventional strategies to protect the population are no longer totally effective.
In 2014, when armed men without insignia showed up in Crimea, the Ukrainian government and the international community were unprepared. Russian Special Forces seized key military, government and communication infrastructure without any significant resistance.
Waro said that if such an invasion were to happen in Norway, “The home guard would be the first responders because they are out there, they have their weaponry, their weapons, and their ammunition. The strength of the home guard is since we have so many people out there we will rapidly identify the changes in the normal situation.”
More than 90 percent of the men and women in the home guard are assigned to their local areas and locations where they would easily notice the most subtle changes and report them.
The Norwegian Home Guard is about 45,000 strong.
Every member completed the compulsory year-long military service. In the case of an invasion, they will be tasked with slowing down the enemy. Most of the service personnel here are equipped with 84-millimeter guns and basic anti-tank weapons. Their bases and equipment are dotted across the country, hidden away from view.