‘Putin won’t care’ about defense snub

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Russian President Vladimir Putin probably doesn’t care that Norway is breaking off all military cooperation with Russia. It’s mostly a “symbolic” move that won’t have much impact on Russian politics or opinions, predicted one defense expert in Oslo on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it will mean very much,” Jakub Godzimirski, a senior researcher at the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday evening. He said it simply confirmed that Norway is in line with its NATO allies.

All military meetings cancelled
Norwegian government officials announced Tuesday afternoon that Norway will cut off all military cooperation with Russia through the end of May because, said Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, “Norway condemns Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its use of armed forces in Ukraine.” Søreide said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine was a “clear violation” of international law and an “unacceptable act that must have consequences.”

Søreide went on national TV Tuesday evening to explain that Norway’s decision to halt military cooperation was “completely in line with our allies” and was meant to send a message to Russia that Norway and most other European countries strongly opposed Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Russian forces remained welcome at last week’s “Cold Response” military exercises in Northern Norway but that’s likely to be the last joint venture for awhile. Russia has now been told a fleet visit won’t be welcome in Oslo in connection with the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution in May. A visit by the head of the Russian Navy to Bergen will also be cancelled as will Russian participation in the Norwegian Military Tattoo 2014 at the Oslo Spektrum Arena in May.

Northern Eagle’s wings clipped
Norway will also drop its participation in the naval exercises known as Northern Eagle, which were cancelled after the US withdrew.

Godzimirski of NUPI said he didn’t think Norway’s suspension of military activity comes as a surprise to Russia. “I think President Putin has been prepared for such reaction,” he told NRK. “Russia reacted itself during the Kosovo conflict in 1999 as did NATO in connection with the conflict in Georgia.”

Eriksen, the defense minster, added that all joint search and rescue operations, coast guard and border patrol cooperation with Russia would continue. “That’s important for security,” she said on NRK’s nightly national newscast Dagsrevy.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund