- “This is a direct consequence of Norwegian politics since the 2000s.”
- “The Russians are not afraid of Norway, but of the US making it a springboard for operations against them.”
- "Norwegians should not worry about Russian exercises," Heier reassures.
Last night, new Russian exercises started off the coast of Helgeland. The drills take place far offshore, and in International waters, however. This is the third time in less than a year that Russia has announced missile drills off the coast in the north. According to the Norwegian military, Russians rarely practices so far south.
Professor Tormod Heier, a lieutenant colonel and researcher at the Norwegian Defense Institute believes that the reason is partly that Norway has cut back its own armed forces. “This is a direct consequence of Norwegian politics since the 2000s,” says Heier.
Absence Instead of the Presence
Heier believes that Norway cannot independently ensure a sufficient presence in its marine areas. Here’s an example: American reconnaissance aircraft operate from Andoya airfield. When Norway brings Americans closer, Russia responds. “The Russians are not afraid of Norway, but of the US making it a springboard for operations against them,” Heier explains.
The Russians are conducting exercises closer to Norwegian borders because they worry about the safety of their nuclear forces, the professor said. On the Kola Peninsula, close to the Norwegian border, there are several bases with nuclear submarines. This is one of the key parts of the Russian armed forces.
Norway Drawn into the Rivalry of Superpowers
“On the Norwegian side, the exercises are closely monitored,” assured the representative of the operational headquarters of the Armed Forces, Brynjar Stordal. The ships participating in the exercises move from the Black Sea to the bases on the Kola peninsula. “These are not large-scale exercises,” Stordal said.
When Russia conducted similar drills in April last year, two missiles were fired west of the Lofoten Islands. During the August exercises— contrary to claims— neither rockets nor torpedoes were fired. However, the armed forces called the exercises the largest in recent decades. Heier believes that current exercises fit into the picture. It is about control of the Norwegian Sea.
For Russia, these areas are important because it needs to protect nuclear submarines, which are based on the Kola Peninsula. The United States needs these same areas in case of crisis. Then the Americans will have to send reinforcements across the Atlantic to Norway and the rest of Western Europe quickly and without disruption.
No Reason to Worry
Responsibility for safety during the exercise lies with the Russians. The alleged shooting area is located far from the coast, but next to the Norwegian oil installations, the armed forces report. “The distance is sufficient and there is no danger,” says Stordal.
“Norwegians should not worry about Russian exercises,” Heier reassures. Militarily, Russia is inferior to the West— and moreover, it will never go to war with Norway. Norway is located in the most peaceful and protected areas of the world. Russia and Norway have many common interests in maintaining the existing order in the northern regions. The military exercise should be seen as a kind of political signal.