Norway braced for Russian exercises

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The Russian Navy is expected to launch “unusually high activity” off the coast of Northern Norway next week, after announcing more military training exercises in the Norwegian Sea. Three US surveillance aircraft have joined Norway in efforts to keep an eye on the Russians.

NATO forces joined for surveillance and anti-submarine training in July. Now the US will also join Norway in monitoring lots of Russian naval exercises next week. PHOTO: Forsvaret

“A large number of naval vessels are on their way from Russia to the areas where the Russians have said they’ll be training,” Sigurd Tonning-Olsen of the Defense Department operative headquarters (FOV) told state broadcaster NRK Tuesday afternoon.’No

He said the Russians had issued a Notice to AirMen (NOTAM) in four different areas, “an unusually large number,” off the Norwegian coast. The Russians also plan to fire missiles.

“This is unusually high Russian activity in our areas, and in our areas of responsibility,” Tonning-Olsen said. One of the areas is directly west of the city of Mo i Rana in Nordland County, while the others are north- and northwest of Andøya off Troms County, where Norway long has had a major naval and aircraft base. Russian activity will also take place in international waters.

‘No reason to be worried but…’
The exercises are slated for August 14-17, “and we’ll follow along for as long as necessary,” General Major Lars Kristian Aamodt, deputy commander of FOV, told NRK. “There’s no reason to be worried, but we’ll follow this closely.”

He said the Norwegian naval defense forces will “continually communicate that we’re watching and understand what’s happening in areas near to our shores.” Norway also hosted anti-submarine exercises of its own last month that gathered 300 military personnel, 10 aircraft and helicopters from seven nations for joint training at Andenes. It was all part of NATO’s efforts to find and neutralize enemy submarines in the alliance’s areas.

NRK reported that three US surveillance aircraft (P-8A Poseidons) are currently stationed on Andøya “to contribute towards increasing our understanding of the situation in these areas,” Tonning-Olsen said.
“It’s a large area to cover When it looks like the (Russian) activity will be so high, it’s always good to use other resources in addition to our own.”

Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen PHOTO: Forsvaret

Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen of the Conservative Party said the upcoming Russian exercises are an example of how Russia is conducting military activity more often and farther west than earlier.

Russia has also reacted to heightened NATO activity near its areas, but Bakke-Jensen didn’t seem to think that compares to what Russia is now planning.

“We don’t see any real military reasons for the planned Russian exercises to take place so far west and close to Norway,” Bakke-Jensen stated in a press release Tuesday. “We have over time seen how Russia is becoming more assertive in our areas. Norway is worried about this and will closely follow the expected Russian activity.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund