One of the world’s largest aircraft carriers squeezed through the Oslo Fjord on Monday to spend the next few days in the Norwegian capital. It’s the first time the British Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth has visited Norway, in a show of NATO force during troubled times.
The huge vessel, accompanied by two frigates, a destroyer and a supply ship, will be berthed under Oslo’s historic Akershus Fortress until Thursday, and host several military- and political meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was invited on board Monday evening for a tour of the flagship of the British Navy.
“This is of great significance for Norway,” Støre told reporters. He noted how the aircraft carrier has been sailing with other NATO allies in Norwegian territorial waters, calling it “an important signal that we’re maintaining order” in an area that’s the site of nearly 90 offshore oil and gas installations and thousands of kilometers of pipelines on the sea floor.
“We are a maritime nation, we have a lot of value at sea, are strategically located and will secure stability and order in our region,” Støre said. “We’re doing that in close cooperation with Great Britain and the US.”
The Queen Elizabeth’s home port is in Portsmouth, but the vessel most recently has been sailing as part of Britain’s “Operation Archillean,” also in the North Sea. The area suddenly became a potential target after pipelines in the Baltic were sabotaged and concerns rose that Russia may try to interfere with Norwegian gas exports to Europe. Norway has become Europe’s largest supplier of energy since Russian imports were halted following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Norway will also be hosting a meeting of all Nordic defense ministers in Oslo on Tuesday. They’ll be discussing the situation in Ukraine, security policy in the Nordic region that shares a border with Russia, and ongoing development of Nordic defense cooperation. Finland, Sweden and Norway are expected to sign an updated cooperation agreement in the far northern region known as Nord-Kalotten where they also share borders.
Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram noted how Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO opens up “new opportunities for defense cooperation in our region.”