"Being a neighbor to Russia, I think Russia understands quite clearly what we are doing. What we are doing now, and what they should read, is that the alliance is working", says Lieutenant General Yngve Odlo, Chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters (FOH).
During a telephone press briefing Friday 5 March, Lt. Gen. Odlo discussed the current US B-1 Lancer bombers' deployment to Norway with Lieutenant General Steven Basham, Deputy Commander of the United States' Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa.
"I think what Russia will read out of this is a normal military activity between two close allies," Odlo said.
Four US Air Force B-1 bombers and approximately 200 personnel from Dyess Air Force in Texas are currently deployed to Ørland Air Base in Norway to exercise together with Norwegian forces. This is the first time the U.S. is generating flights in partnership with Norway.
"Not an offensive operation"
The Norwegian General Lieutenant told reporters that the training should not be seen as an offensive operation at all. "It’s normal military activity between two close allies. The only special thing is that it is the new asset being deployed to Norway. But it is also a quite normal, and an important asset to be able to conduct high-intensity joint, combined operations.”
At the joint press briefing, Lieutenant General Steven Basham, Deputy Commander of the United State's Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa, echoed Odlo’s comments, saying “there should be no message of threat.”
“Training and operating with allies and partners is essential to ensuring that we can quickly respond to a variety of challenges. Yet our main goal is always to preserve peace. We are here training shoulder to shoulder with our allies to ensure stability, and to send a clear message that we are poised and ready to ensure a stable region, to include the Arctic, for generations to come,” Basham added.
"As more countries are drawn to the Arctic region, some with competing interests, it is imperative that we maintain free, fair access for all nations."
This is normal activity communicated quite well.
Russia monitoring the situation
"We have a quite good understanding of what we should do and not should do with regard to being a neighbor to Russia. We try to be transparent, open and communicate what we do, and to not operate too close to the border. I think the most important part is that we are transparent and communicate what we do on a regular basis," the Chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters emphasized.
"We will make sure that we will not make any unreadable actions."
As High North News has previously reported, the deployment of B-1's to Norway has been met with sceptism in Russia. The Russian Embassy has stated the following on its Facebook page:
"The activation of foreign military presence in Norway and in the North, including the sending of strategic bombers "B-1 Lancers ", does not generally contribute to stability. We will continue to monitor the situation and implement measures to defend the security of our country and the region."
We certainly never want to look at this as permanent basing.
"We never, from a U.S. standpoint, we certainly never want to look at this as permanent basing. It is the ability to be able to operate from many different locations, and you have to be on the ground to understand some of the challenges that you might face", Basham emphasized during the press briefing.
The US Air Force bombers have largely been operating out of RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
The Lt. Gen. told reporters the current missions are an opportunity to learn from Norway, to operate in a cold weather environment, and to familiarize pilots with the region’s unique terrain.
"While the flying out of the UK is great, if we don’t expand our horizon and look for other opportunities to work with other allies, other partners, then we miss true training opportunities to continue to develop ourselves, and even more so, I would say, to learn from others."