Norway Arctic exercise 'a provocation': Russia
Russia has criticised Norway’s ongoing military exercise on the two countries’ northern borders as a deliberate provocation used as a cover for gathering intelligence about its Arctic neighbour.
Between March 9 and March 18, Norway’s Armed Forces are carrying out their "Joint Viking" exercise, involving 5,000 troops in Finnmark county.
In response, Russia on Monday ordered 45,000 Russian troops as well as war planes and submarines to begin exercises, in a huge show of military force.
Aleksandr Khrolenko, a Putin loyalist who has held senior positions in Chechnya and South Ossetia, argued that Nato, through Norway, had deliberately provoked Russia, writing in Ria Novosti, Russia’s state newswire.
“Given the growing tensions between Russia and Nato, the choice of training area looks like a provocation,” Khrolenko wrote.
By bringing the Norwegian frigate Thor Heyerdahl to Kirkenes, a Norwegian town on Russia’s border, Norway was mounting “a threat to Russia’ Northern Fleet”, he argued.
The Norwegian made Naval Strike Missile (NSM) has a range of 185km, whereas Severomorsk, the main base for Russia’s northern fleet is just 150km away.
The Nato exercises, he argued, “violates longstanding principles of good neighbourliness in the Arctic”.
Norway had not invited Russian military observers to the exercise, he added, ending decades of common practice.
He also claimed that Nato was using its Arctic exercises to learn how to mount intelligence operations against Russia in the north, and also to increase “military pressure” on the Russian Arctic.