Søreide: Sending Norwegian NATO-forces to Lithuania is an important signal
Monday, 208 Norwegian soldiers are heading for NATO missions in Lithuania. Participation is an important signal, says Minister of Defense, Ine Eriksen Søreide (Conservatives).
“This is important for Norway, to show that we are in the process of taking joint responsibility in NATO,” says Søreide to NTB.
On Wednesday, she went to Rena camp to take part with the soldiers and inspect the equipment that goes to Lithuania, including nine tanks, five modern CV90 armoured vehicles, two heavy-duty trucks and two tankers.
This is the first time the Norwegian defense participates with such equipment’s in an international operation.
The visit to Rena took place the day before the extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels.
The operation in Lithuania, which is part of NATO’s collective defense and deterrence measures, was planned at the NATO Summit last year.
Then it was decided to make a battalion battle group in each of the countries in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to deter Russia and assist local authorities in building a war-prevention threshold.
“This is no practice,” says chief executive Odin Johannessen, who, like Søreide, believes it is very important that Norway shows commitment to NATO.
“We are a small country with limited resources, but we cannot say that we would not contribute. We must attend when we are asked for and show that we are a solid and reliable ally, “he says.
Sharpest mission ever
For six months, the Norwegian soldiers will make up about one third of the fighting force in Lithuania. The force is under German command, and Dutch, Belgian and French soldiers are also included.
The soldiers which most of them are from Telemark Battalion, have been preparing for the mission since November last year. Many of them have experience from previous missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This is the sharpest thing we have ever participated in. We are absolutely ready if there should be a real fight. That is what we are dimensioned for, “says Brage Reinaas, chief executive officer.
Does not fear for Russian attack
As of today, there is no indication that this will happen, he emphasizes.
Nor does Søreide believe there is reason to fear for a Russian attack.
“But Russia must change its behavior. We must seriously consider that the Baltic countries and Poland experience a completely different Russian aggressiveness than before, “she said.
Defense Minister arrived at the camp in helicopter, youthfully upholstered in leather jacket and black jeans, slightly delayed due to parachuting.
Among those who told her about the superior qualities of the new tanks, 24 years old Kristin Wiseth, one of two female drivers in the Telemark Battalion.
Wiseth is looking forward to returning to Lithuania.
“It will be nice to cooperate with other countries,” she says.
She does not think much about her being able to stand out like a girl behind the wheel in the trolley.
“I feel like one of the boys,” she says.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today