Norway Revamping Military Strategy Toward Aggressive Moscow
On Norway's border with Russia, there's unease over recent military buildup. In the town of Kirkenes, some residents are concerned about rising tensions as Russia continues to upgrade its military capabilities in the North Atlantic. Norwegian officials say Russia is also carrying out cruise missile tests which are prompting Norway to revamp its military strategy when it comes to Moscow
In Setermoen, under a soft wintery sun, U.S. Marines are training in the ice and snow on how to fight and survive the harsh conditions. They are part of a contingent of 650 Marines staging a joint military exercise with 3,000 Norwegian soldiers at a time when both NATO and Russia have increased their military presence in the Arctic.
“We’re here primarily to get better in the Arctic conditions, high mountain conditions, cold weather conditions because if we can’t do that, then we’re not as effective as we could be in alliance with our NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) partners,” U.S. commanding officer of marine rotational force – Europe, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Stansberry said.
On the other side of the border, Russia is boosting and modernizing its military. In recent weeks a major submarine exercise was staged in the North Atlantic, according to intelligence sources cited by Norwegian media.
“We see, from time to time since 2017, Moscow is sending messages to NATO through the Northern Fleet and we have had examples of simulated attacks against the radar in Vardoe (military base), against ships and against airports,” Lieutenant General Rune Jacobsen said.
Over the past three decades, the town’s residents had been living in peace and harmony alongside their Russian neighbors, but more and more are beginning to feel unsettled.
“I am not a person who is crying out for more tanks and cannons and weapons along the border, but I have full respect and I respect the Norwegian government, how they are considering what is needed for the military. But of course, low tension is the best,” Mayor of Soer-Varanger Municipality, Rune Rafaelsen said.
Residents can cross the nearby border quickly with a visa-free permit. Many go to the nearby Russian town of Nikel to buy petrol because it is much cheaper there.
Eirik Wikan, co-owner of a shipyard in Kirkenes, says it gets two-thirds of its revenues from repairing Russian vessels.
“It’s quite calm here, it’s not so much tension in this area and we are thinking ‘It’s a long way to Oslo’ and I think the Russians also think it’s a long way to Moscow so we are trying to do the best of it here in the north, try to live together and cooperate,” co-owner of Kimek shipyard Eirik Wikan said.
Russia denies responsibility for the increase in tensions and blames the presence of U.S. Marines at Norwegian bases. But Norway’s worries grew after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and began its military intervention in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow has also staged Arctic military exercises including maritime maneuvers with ballistic missile-capable vessels present.