Russian forces in the north challenge NATO
Russian exercises that include simulated attacks on Norwegian targets do not contribute to better relations or reduced tension, warns Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Søreide.
Russia’s military rearmament, combined with its proven will to use this military force, has created new uncertainties about Russia’s intentions, says Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide (Conservatives).
She emphasises the impression she is left with after her visit to Eastern Ukraine last week.
– The conflict is still ongoing. I saw the devastation and suffering a conflict in the heart of Europe leads to. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have changed the security situation in Europe. We have, together with our allies, responded in a measured and transparent manner, Søreide states.
– This is very important also from a Norwegian perspective. The Kola peninsula is still home-base for much of Russia’s strategic forces. Although we do not consider Russia as a direct military threat to Norway, it is clear that these forces represent a strategic challenge for NATO, she emphasises.
In a wide-ranging speech on Norway’s relationship with Russia at the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute (NUPI) on Friday, Søreide emphasised that the military revitalisation in the north makes the area even more important to Russia. She pointed to that NATO, with Norway as a driving force, has adapted to a situation in the Arctic that is becoming increasingly important strategically.
– Although we recognise that Russia’s military activity in the north is not primarily aimed at Norway, we can not ignore what is happening this close to our territory, she says.
– We continue to pay close attention to the ongoing build-up of forces, the deployment of weapons systems and the increasingly aggressive activity that takes place in the backyard of Norway in the north.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs also mentioned that Russian exercise activity does not exactly contribute to lowering the level of tension.
– Exercises that include simulated attacks on Norwegian targets do not contribute to better relations or decreased levels of tension, she says.
In a lecture delivered this spring, The Head of Norwegian Military intelligence, Morten Haga Lunde, presented radar print-outs of Russian fighter aircraft training on attacking Norwegian targets, according to VG.
The picture of Russian rearmament and massively increased activity in the north was also mentioned in the Intelligence service’s threat assessment this spring.
In parallel with the conflict between Russia and the West, bilateral Norwegian-Russian cooperation in the area of environmental protection, fisheries and nuclear safety is ongoing.
– Thanks to the institutions we have created together, our cooperation with Russia has managed to weather a few political storms, says Søreide.
At the same event, she talked about disturbing political developments in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. She pointed to that the room for the civil society is getting smaller, but also that Norway will continue to support efforts in favour of democracy and human rights.
– When organizations are labelled as foreign agents just because they cooperate with Norwegian partners or receive support from Norway, it does not contribute to bettering the relations between us. That is regrettable, says Søreide.
Søreide emphasises that the number of Norwegian companies in Russia is declining, not only due to western sanctions but also because of a difficult investment climate and the various problems Norwegian businesses face there. The Russian bureaucracy is, as most people are aware, notorious.
© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today