Soldiers on winter patrol in northern Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
The same day as Russia’s Vladimir Putin warned his top commanders of militarization in the Arctic is Norway’s Minister of Defence, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, inviting her NATO-allies to locate more exercises in northern Norway. Next week, a group of Special Forces from the U.S. Army goes to Finnish Lapland.
President Vladimir Putin was speaking to the Defense Ministry Board in Moscow, while Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen was visiting a joint Norwegian, British army exercise near Harstad together with her British colleague Philip Hammond. Royal Marines is in the Harstad area for winter training.
“Like many other countries has also the United Kingdom in recent years shown increased interests for the north. Combined with NATO’s strategy of increased focus on the alliance’s home areas is Norway a natural choice for allied training and exercises, says Strøm-Erichsen in a news article posted on the Defense Ministry’s portal under the headline “Wants more NATO-exercise in the north.”
In his hardliner talk in Moscow, the Russian President said: “Methodical attempts are made to rock the strategic balance in one way or another”…and…”The danger of militarization of the Arctic exists.”
Two weeks ago, Russia’s biggest military magazine, Natsional’naya Oborona, chief editor wrote that diplomats representing Russian interests in the Arctic need to have a military potential behind their backs. “Of course such questions should be resolved through diplomatic methods, but the diplomacy has to be, as Rogozin put it, as “a steel fist in a kid glove”, which we will shake our partners’ hand with,” wrote Igor Korotchenko.
In Harstad, the Norwegian and British defense ministers agreed on the need for more allied joint training. Increased exercise and training is also an integral part of NATO’s so-called Connected Forces Initiative whose main purpose is to secure allied forces’ ability to work together.
Also on Wednesday, a group of Special Forces from the U.S. Army arrived in Finland and are now engaged in winter war games organized by the Utti Jaeger Regiment, reports YLE. The US Army special forces will move on to Lapland next week. Members of the Utti infantry regiment will then test their American colleagues’ winter war skills across northern Lapland.
Finnish soldiers have collaborated with NATO troops previously in special forces war games organized in Utti, Norway and Afghanistan.
Norway is not only hoping for more joint exercises with its allies, but also directly with Russia. During a visit to Moscow earlier in February, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen agreed with Russia’s Dense Minister Sergey Shoygu to expand the two countries military cooperation and to have more joint exercises, both in Norway and in Russia.
Russia and Norway have for years had joint drills, named Pomor, involving the two countries navies in the high north.