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Norway suspends all bilateral military activities with Russia

Russian officers welcome Norwegian border guard soldiers in the autumn 2013.

“Norway condemns Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the use of armed force in Ukraine.

“Norway condemns Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the use of armed force in Ukraine. This is a clear violation of international law and is an unacceptable action that must have consequences. Norway has therefore informed the Russian authorities that we do suspend all planned military cooperation activities between Norway and Russia at the end of May 2014. We will then conduct a new assessment of planned activities in the light of developments of the situation in Ukraine, and Russia’s further actions and discuss this with our NATO allies,” says Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, in a press-release Tuesday afternoon.

The following official programs are now cancelled:

  • Russian naval vessel’s visit to Oslo in connection with the Norwegian Navy’s 200th anniversary in May.
  • Joint exercise Northern Eagle, including the visit of two naval vessel.
  • Russian participation in the Norwegian Military Tattoo 2014.
  • Russian navy commander’s visit to Bergen.

NATO member Norway will also postpone the visit of the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, which was planned for April.

Border guard exchange cancelled
According to the press release from the Defense Ministry, cooperation with Russia within fields like search and rescue, safety at sea, coast guard and border guard will not be affected.

Anyhow, the annual personnel exchange between the border guard service in Nikel, Russia, and the border guard at Sør-Varanger Garrison, Norway, is cancelled.

“This is not part of the ordinary border surveillance and will therefore be cancelled”, a spokesperson in the Defense Ministry says to BarentsObserver.

Norway and Russia share a 196 kilometer land border and a maritime border in the Barents- and Arctic Seas.

From cold via friendship to freeze
During the Cold War, Norway was together with Turkey the only NATO member with direct border to the Soviet Union. During that period, the border guards contact in the north existed, although to a very limited extent. 

Since then, Norway gradually developed its military relation with Russia from the mid 90ties. Joint exercises, like Northern Eagle and the bi-annual naval drill Pomor have been growing in size and scoop over the last decade. Last year’s Pomor-2013 exercise took place over a week in the Barents- and Norwegian Seas, including reciprocal warship visits to Bergen in Norway and Severomorsk on the Russia’s Kola Peninsula. 

Three years ago, Norway’s then-Minister of Defense, Grete Faremo praised the military cooperation with Russia. “Norway and Russia have good bilateral connections and we face the same challenges in the North, Faremo said at a meeting with Head of the Russian General Staff Army General Nikolay Makarov.