OSLO: Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. As the war rages in Ukraine, NATO and its partners will launch exercises in Norway on Monday March 14 to come to the aid of one of its own.
Some 30,000 troops, 200 aircraft and 50 ships from 27 countries will take part in Exercise Cold Response 2022, the largest exercise involving NATO troops this year.
Beginning March 14, the maneuvers will allow Western nations to hone their combat skills in Norway’s cold climate, including in the Arctic, on land, at sea and in the sky.
The exercise will take place a few hundred kilometers from the Russian border, and although it was planned long before Moscow invaded Ukraine, it now has increased importance due to the war.
“This exercise is extremely important for the security of Norway and its allies. We will practice an allied reinforcement of Norway,” Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen told AFP.
“It is not taking place due to the Russian authorities’ attack on Ukraine, but given the backdrop, there is heightened significance,” he said.
Guardian of NATO’s northern border in Europe, Norway wants to test how it would manage Allied reinforcements on its soil, in accordance with article 5 of the NATO charter which obliges member states to come to the aid. to another attacked Member State.
Neighboring Sweden and Finland, which are officially non-aligned but increasingly close NATO military partners, will also take part in Cold Response, which ends on April 1.
“I find it completely normal, perhaps now more than ever, to train together to demonstrate our ability and our will to defend our values and our way of life”, underlined General Yngve Odlo, Head of State. -Norwegian Joint Major and Head of Cold Response. .
On the Russian side of the 196 km Arctic border that separates it from Norway is the Kola Peninsula, home to the Northern Fleet and a large number of nuclear weapons and military installations.
“There is no explicit military threat against NATO or Norwegian territory,” Enoksen said, but “the situation in Europe is more unpredictable than it has been for a long time.”
To avoid any misunderstanding, Norway informed Russia about the Cold Response exercise – defined as “purely defensive” – and will keep a respectful distance from Russia.
General Odlo had a long talk with Vice-Admiral Alexander Moiseyev, commander of the Russian Northern Fleet, about the exercise in order to reassure him.
Russia, however, declined an invitation to send observers to the exercise.
“Any reinforcement of NATO’s military capabilities near Russia’s borders does not contribute to strengthening security in the region,” the Russian embassy in Norway told AFP.
In similar circumstances in the past, Moscow has expressed its displeasure by jamming GPS signals or announcing missile tests, thereby blocking access to certain international sea and airspaces.
Russia’s offensive against Ukraine has surprised experts, leaving some to wonder whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would try to go after other former Soviet states, such as the Baltics, in his quest to restore the former USSR.
Cold Response “allows us to refine our training, to demonstrate our unity, our willingness to work together in difficult conditions which may be more familiar conditions in the East”, said French General Yvan Gouriou of the Rapid Reaction Corps of France.
“So the exercise is very relevant in the current situation,” he added.
More than 40,000 soldiers were originally scheduled to take part in Cold Response, but their numbers have dwindled due to the Covid pandemic and geopolitical crises elsewhere.
The US aircraft carrier Harry Truman and its escort ships have been held up in the Aegean Sea, where they are helping to monitor the skies near Ukraine.