What are the biggest threats facing Norway this year?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
What are the biggest threats facing Norway this year?
Image by tespeseth from Pixabay

The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) published its annual threat assessment on Monday. Unsurprisingly, Norway's deteriorating relationship with Russia has gotten a lot of attention in the report.


In the assessment, the PST points to several threats to Norway's security, both domestically and internationally.

However, the deterioration of Norway's relations with Russia and a rise in extremist violence have been singled out as some of the most prominent threats in 2023.

The report characterises the war in Ukraine as a turning point in the relations between Russia and the West:

"The war has profoundly altered relations between Russia and Western countries, including Norway. This impacts the threat posed by Russian intelligence services in Norway. However, the intelligence threat posed by other countries will continue to be characterised by continuity, and no major changes are expected during the current year."


Deteriorating relationship with Russia

When it comes to threats related to foreign intelligence activities, the worsening relationship between Norway and Russia poses the biggest threat to Norway in 2023, according to the report.

China, Iran, Pakistan, and several other states conduct active intelligence efforts in Norway. However, after the invasion of Ukraine, relations between Norway and Russia have reached a new low, leading to less trade and an increased Russian need for intelligence in Norway.

Because of the worsening relationship, Russia has less to lose if its intelligence activities in Norway are exposed.

Furthermore, due to the war in Ukraine, Russia also has an increased need for information about military capacities in Norway and NATO's expansion in the Nordic region, especially pending the accession of Sweden and Finland to the alliance.

"As Norway is a member of NATO, Norwegian and allied activity and presence in Norway are persistently important intelligence targets for Russia," the PST warned in its annual threat assessment.

Svalbard and the northern areas of Norway are mentioned as being particularly strategically important for Russia. Furthermore, the report states that Russia and China pose the greatest threat to Norway when it comes to cybercrime.

Extremist violence and terrorist plots

Following incidents where the Quran has been burned, Muslims across Europe have held demonstrations in recent months.

In this year's threat assessment, the PST warned that extreme Islamists who feel offended by someone burning the Quran could lead to terrorist plots aimed at Norway.

PST writes that they recognise that many people find burning or desecrating the Quran offensive. Far-right and Islamophobic groups throughout the Nordics have burned the text, which is central to Islamic beliefs, in recent years.  

"In Norway, we expect such events to occur in 2023. Debates and events in Norway that are perceived to inhibit religious practice will also reinforce the perception that the West is at war with Islam. When such events occur in Norway, the likelihood of radicalisation and ultimately terrorist plots against Norway increases," the report notes.

The probability of a situation in which extreme Islamists - or right-wing extremists - attempt to carry out terrorist acts in Norway in 2023 is characterised as an "even chance."

According to the PST's degrees of probability, an "even chance" means it is equally likely and unlikely for an event to occur, that is, a 40 - 60 percent probability.


In its 2023 threat assessment, the PST estimates that potential acts of terrorism this year could be carried out by individual perpetrators, who are likely to be in contact with other extremists before the act.

"However, the most relevant targets for extreme Islamist terror will still be civilian crowds, institutions, or people who are perceived to insult the religion of Islam, as well as uniformed police and defence personnel in public spaces", the PST concludes.

Threats aimed at politicians

The security agency also fears that the multiple crises and the upcoming local elections could lead to more threats aimed at politicians.

"The PST considers it unlikely that government officials will be affected by serious acts of violence in Norway in 2023. Demanding economic times will, however, increase threatening activity," PST chief Beate Gangås said at a press conference on Monday.

She believes there is reason to expect more cases of harassment and threats, also aimed at politicians, in connection with the municipal and county council elections.

"Threats and incitement against politicians are a serious challenge for democracy since the overall burden on people can lead to some withdrawing from the public debate or refraining from standing for election," she warned.

The full threat assessment report for 2023 is available here.


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