The Russian navy has announced that it will conduct missile tests from Wednesday 5 February to Friday 7 February, according to the Norwegian Armed Forces.
The area in which the testing takes place is in international waters, however, it is near the Aasta Hansteen oil production platform off the coast of Nordland county.
A Russian reaction
Head of the military intelligence services, Lieutenant-General Morten Haga Lunde, argues that the test should be considered a reaction against Norwegian authorities and as part of the Russian objections against Norway’s involvement with NATO.
“Russia obviously wants to express its dissatisfaction with ‘Cold Response’, this winter’s NATO exercise in Norway”, Haga says to Norwegian daily VG.
Russia obviously wants to express its dissatisfaction with ‘Cold Response’, this winter’s NATO exercise in Norway
He refers to the Russians doing exactly the same with the ‘Ocean Shield’ drill in 2019, which was interpreted as a reaction to ‘Trident Juncture’ in 2018.
Lars Erik Rowe, who wrote a book about politics in the High North and who until recently was Senior Researcher specialized on Russia at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), says in a comment to High North News:
“I believe the intelligence chief is hitting the mark.”
Norwegian Chief of Defense Haakon Bruun-Hanssen stated last autumn that he considered the ‘Ocean Shield’ exercise a signal from the Russians that they can get in place fast – prior to NATO forces – and that they hold the weapon capacity and ability to prevent NATO from arriving with planes and vessels into the area.
A direct and serious threat
Bruun-Hanssen addressed and problematized this once again in his annual defense speech last January:
“During the ‘Ocean Shield’ exercise, Russia sent a majority of the vessels from its Baltic Sea Fleet and the North Fleet to the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. They first practiced closing off access to the Baltic and Norwegian Seas, then they practiced bastion defense in the Norwegian Sea. This is the biggest and most prominent exercise we have seen since the Cold War”, he said.
These submarines constitute a direct and serious threat to Norwegian and allied security.
He further described the activity level of the Russian defense as high:
“During the past year, we have seen a series of Russian navy exercises off the Norwegian coast, as well as the deployment of multi-role submarines into the Atlantic Ocean. These submarines constitute a direct and serious threat to Norwegian as well as allied security and may threaten American reinforcements to Europe. The pattern of activity and deployment of long-distance missiles on nearly all weapon platforms allows for a very short warning time before a potential attack.”
Major exercise coming up
The first forces that are to participate during the NATO winter exercise ‘Cold Response 2020’ are just weeks away from arriving in Northern Norway. The winter exercise is to take place in an area spanning from Nordland County to Finnmark, though the majority of it will take place in Troms.
The main goal of the exercise is to secure the Norwegian defense and allies’ ability to conduct multi-national joint exercises with a high-intensive battle scenario during demanding winter conditions.
Due to the USA’s security policy situation, however, American authorities have decided to pull 3,000 soldiers from the exercise. Nevertheless, Cold Response will be a huge exercise gathering some 16,000 soldiers from ten nations to practice in Northern Norway.
Defense monitoring Russian activity
The Norwegian Joint Headquarters (FOH) hold the responsibility to plan the conducting of the ‘Cold Response 2020’ exercise.
Of course the armed forces monitor such activity in our neighborhood
Press spokesperson at FOH (the Norwegian Joint Headquarters), Brynjar Stordal, says to High North News that the Russian exercise not will have any practical consequences for Cold Response. However, he says:
“Of course the armed forces monitor such activity in our neighborhood, with relevant capacities. We ask for understanding for our not wanting to get into specifics about this.”
The field operations of ‘Cold Response 2020’ will take place between the 12th and 18th of March, however, the first forces have announced their presence in Norway from February onwards in order to conduct winter training. Several forces will also remain in Northern Norway after the exercise to conduct winter training.