NATO launches defence exercise in Norway

As war rages in Ukraine, NATO and its partners will launch exercises in Norway on Monday aimed at coming to the rescue of one of its own.

NATO exercise, 2022.
Illustration photo: ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

Some 30,000 troops, 200 aircraft and 50 vessels from 27 nations will take part in the Cold Response 2022 exercise in Norway on March 14, the largest exercise involving NATO troops this year.

The manoeuvres will enable Western nations to hone their combat skills in Norway’s cold climate, including in the Arctic, on the ground, at sea and in the skies.

The exercise will be held just a few hundred kilometres from the Russian border, and while it was planned long before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, it now has added significance because of the war.

“This exercise is extremely important for the security of Norway and its allies. We will practice an allied reinforcement of Norway”, Norwegian Defence Minister Odd Roger Enoksen told AFP.

“It is not being held because of the Russian authorities’ attack on Ukraine, but given the backdrop there is a heightened significance”, he said.

The guardian of NATO’s northern border in Europe, Norway is keen to test how it would manage Allied reinforcements on its soil, in line with Article 5 of NATO’s charter, which requires member states to come to the aid of another member state under attack.

Neighbouring Sweden and Finland, which are officially military non-aligned but increasingly close partners of NATO, will also participate in Cold Response, which will conclude on April 1.

Avoid misunderstandings

“I find it totally normal, perhaps now more than ever, to train together to demonstrate our capacity and our willingness to defend our values and our way of life”, stressed General Yngve Odlo, head of Norway’s Joint Headquarters and in charge of Cold Response.

On the Russian side of the 196-kilometre (121-mile) Arctic border that separates it from Norway is the Kola Peninsula, home to the Northern Fleet and a large number of nuclear weapons and military installations.

“There is no explicit military threat against NATO or Norwegian territory”, Enoksen said, but “the situation in Europe is more unpredictable than it has been in a long time.”

To avoid any misunderstandings, Norway has informed Russia of the Cold Response exercise — defined as “purely defensive” — and will keep a respectful distance from Russia.

General Odlo spoke to Vice Admiral Alexander Moiseyev, commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet, at length about the exercise in order to provide reassurances.

Russia declined however an invitation to send observers to the exercise.

“Any build-up of NATO military capabilities near Russia’s borders does not help to strengthen security in the region”, the Russian embassy in Norway told AFP.

In similar circumstances in the past, Moscow has expressed its discontent by jamming GPS signals or announcing missile tests, thereby blocking access to some international maritime and air space.

‘Rugged conditions’ 

Russia’s offensive against Ukraine surprised experts, leaving some to wonder whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would try to go after other former Soviet states, such as the Baltics, in his quest to restore the old USSR.

Cold Response “allows us to hone our training, demonstrate our unity, our willingness to work together in rugged conditions which may be conditions that are more familiar in the east”, French General Yvan Gouriou of France’s rapid reaction corps said.

“So the exercise is very relevant in the current situation”, he added.

More than 40,000 troops were initially expected to participate in Cold Response, but the number has shrunk due to the Covid pandemic and geopolitical crises elsewhere.

The US aircraft carrier Harry Truman and its escort ships have been kept back in the Aegean Sea, where they are helping monitor the skies near Ukraine.

READ MORE: Norway closes airspace to Russian aircraft

Member comments

  1. EU needs an army not NATO an old school cold war era alliance, one that will address the security concerns of the bloc inc neutrsl countries.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.