The Norway-U.S. military agreement Russia doesn’t like

Russia has been criticizing the defence cooperation agreement between Norway and the United States facilitating American military training in Scandinavia. The Arctic Council was another opportunity for Russia to be heard.

Signed in April 2021, the agreement between the 2 NATO members includes 4 military zones in Norway that the U.S. will be able to use while respecting the Norwegian sovereignty. The U.S. will also be able to invest in the infrastructure of the bases.

Our neighbours modify their laws to allow foreign military forces and weapons to be installed in their territory”, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergueï Lavrov, said at the occasion of the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Reijkvavik on May 20, marking the end of Iceland’s 2-year presidency. “We maintain good relations [with Norway] but it could increase military tensions”, he warned at a press conference. In fact, Russia considers the agreement as a violation of the Norwegian military policy.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, justified his country’s decision and reminded that Norway had an agreement with the U.S. for 70 years. “We chose not to have foreign forces on our territory. It means we need to train more with them during peace time”, he told VG, a Norwegian news publication.

A few days before the meeting was held, NATO members started gathering their forces for a biennial 3-week live-fire military exercise. About 15 ships and 10 aircraft from 10 NATO members are deployed for air and missile exercise. The Formidable Shield is being primarily operated off the coasts of Scotland and off the Norwegian training site in Andøya, about 300 kilometres north of the Arctic latitude.

American, British, French and Norwegian ships together during the the 2021 Formidable Shield military exercise
American, British, French and Norwegian ships together during the the 2021 Formidable Shield military exercise | Credits: U.S. Navy

Russia wants the Arctic Council to include discussions on security

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum created in 1991 for the cooperation among countries with territory in the Arctic circle and includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Russia and the U.S.

In the middle of tense relations between Russia and NATO in the north of the globe, Norway’s decision isn’t well welcomed by Moscow. After Iceland, Russia will take the presidency of the Arctic Council for the next 2 years and wishes to put security matters on the table of discussions. Norway and Iceland expressed their disagreement.

This year, the meeting in Iceland was more focused on environmental consequences of global warming. It was the objective of most countries since temperature rises “3 times faster in Arctic than anywhere else on the planet” mentioned Marc Garneau, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 2019, during the last meeting, climate wasn’t on the agenda because the Trump administration had refused to include it.

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