Solberg: – No reason for Russia to react
Russia reacts strongly to the decision to extend the US military presence at Værnes, but Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) views it all calmly.
– It is not unexpected. This has been the tone from the Russian embassy for a while, Solberg told NTB in a commentary on the sharp statement that was posted on the Russian Embassy’s Facebook pages earlier this weekend.
Russian authorities protest against the rotation system that allows up to 330 US Marines to practice and train at Værnes. But Solberg rejects the claim that the scheme violates Norwegian basic policy, which states that there should be no foreign forces permanently based on Norwegian soil in peacetime.
The Prime Minister says there is no reason for Russian reactions to allied practicing in Norway.
– This is not a base for operations from Norway. It’s about practicing utilizing an advance storage system in case something were to happen here, she says.
– It’s up to Norway to make choices of what we think is the right thing to do, Solberg continues.
The Government on Wednesday made the decision to extend the scheme by one year as a start, enabling American marines to practice and exercise at Værnes in 2018. NTB knows that the Government really wanted to give the United States a three years extension, but in a closed meeting in the extended foreign and defense committee on Wednesday it became apparent that there is no majority for this view in Parliament.
The statement from the Russian embassy states that the decision breaks with good neighbourhood and makes Norway a less predictable partner.
– It can also increase tension and lead to destabilization of the Far North. We look at this as part of the US-led military preparations that have arisen in the wake of anti-Russian propaganda hysteria, the embassy writes.
The statement accuses Norway of “persistent aggressive rhetoric against Russia” and shows to, among other things, increased defense grants and Norwegian participation in the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Presidency “along our borders” in Lithuania. Additionally, Russia claims that Norway has plans to join NATO’s missile defense system.
– The non-existence of a complete dialogue between our military forces us to take the necessary steps to guarantee the protection of our country, the embassy writes.
Everything has been said before, says FFI researcher and Russia specialist, Tor Bukkvoll, about the Russian reactions.
– Ten years ago the usage of words would have been unusual. It is not the case now. We have a tense situation with Russia. That is, however, primarily due to the relationship between the West and Russia in general, Bukkvoll told NTB.
He says the statement should be taken seriously, but do not think the situation brings with it a start of a military conflict.
– Russia will turn up the volume, no matter what we’re talking about. In this case, the reactions are more of a symbolic nature. There is a difference between this and NATO’s plans for a missile shield, which Russia has a great and genuine fear of, he adds.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today