Norway sends troops to NATO’s East

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Even though it’s most keen on defense in the north, the Norwegian government announced at the NATO summit in Warsaw on Friday that it will contribute to NATO’s call for troop deployment in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The goal is to ward off any “conflict” posed by Russia and defend NATO allies.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the government had decided to offer around 200 soldiers to NATO’s new strengthened presence on its eastern flank. It will be made up of four batallions in Poland and the Baltic countries comprising nearly 4,000 troops.

New ‘concept’
The new so-called “concept” has been dubbed “enhanced Forward Presence (eFP)” and it’s primarily meant to enhance the security of “especially vulnerable” NATO members. Now they’ll each have have multi-national NATO forces on the ground numbering around 900 troops, with Great Britain leading the batallion in Estonia, Canada leading the one in Latvia, Germany leading NATO troops in Lithuania and the US leading those in Poland.

“The concept is part of NATO’s effort to strengthen the alliance’s ability to discourage conflict and defend allies,” Solberg said. “NATO has to adapt to new security challenges and secure all member countries.”

She stressed that the forces “won’t be permanent,” but will be deployed for “as long as necessary.” She claimed that the “unity and solidarity within the alliance is more important than ever.”

Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, also attending the NATO summit with Solberg and Foreign Minister Børge Brende, said Norway would offer troops to NATO for around six months in 2017. “A Norwegian contribution will strengthen our presence in the east and it’s an important measure for strengthening the alliance’s overall defense abilities, which is also important for Norway’s security.”

Not meant to ‘provoke’ Russia
While there have been concerns that such “sabre-rattling” will provoke Russia, NATO officials insisted it does not violate a core agreement between NATO and Russia signed in 1997. NATO also plans to meet with Russian officials next week when the weekend summit is over.

Denmark also agreed to send 200 soldiers to the batallion in Estonia, while Great Britain will send 150 soldiers to Poland and 500 soldiers to Estonia while also leading the latter.

Solberg earlier has claimed that NATO, meanwhile, “must not forget” the importance of defense in Norway’s own northern areas, especially at sea. The need to secure NATO’s maritime strategy in the Arctic, she said, is her most important message at the NATO summit, telling news bureau NTB earlier this week that she doesn’t want NATO’s new emphasis on eastern and southern Europe to reduce commitment in the north, where Norway shares a border with Russia.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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