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POLITICS

Norway announces increased military spending

Norway will spend an additional 3 billion kroner this year to strengthen its military forces in the north near the Russian border, the governemnt announced Friday.

Norwegian army vehicle.
Norway will increase its military spending by 3 billion korner this year. Pictured is a file photo of a Norwegian Motor Topedo Boat (MTB) KNM Skudd is pictured from onboard of USS Mount Whitney of the US Navy during the NATO-led military exercise Trident Juncture on November 3 2018, in Trondheim, Norway. Photo by Jonothan Nackstrand / AFP.

 “Even if a Russian attack on Norway is not likely, we must realise that we have a neighbour to the east that has become more dangerous and more unpredictable,” Norwegian Defence Minister Odd Roger Enoksen told a press conference, referring to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The extra funds will be used to beef up naval presence in the north, intensify training for both soldiers and reservists and increase stocks of
ammunition, fuel and equipment. They will also be used to increase capacity to receive allied troops and strengthen cyber defence and intelligence.

As the northernmost NATO member in Europe, the Nordic country shares a 196-kilometre (120-mile) land border with Russia in the Arctic and a large maritime border in the Barents Sea.

READ MORE: How Norway’s border with Russia could be affected by the invasion of Ukraine

“We need to increase our presence in the north,” Enoksen said.

“Russia has significant security interests in our region and the north is also of great economic importance to Russia,” he added.

Major naval, air and land manoeuvres are currently underway in Norway in which some 30,000 soldiers from 27 countries, including both NATO members and partners of the military alliance, are taking part.

The exercise Cold Response 2022 is designed to test Norway’s ability to receive allied reinforcements in the event of external aggression

In addition, the exercise is an opportunity for troops to train for combat in cold weather.

Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl said that the Police Security Service (PST) warned of an increased threat of espionage and cyber-attacks in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The government will take action to make society less vulnerable to digital attacks,” Mehl said on Friday.

The increased defence and intelligence spending are part of a broader package in response to the war in Ukraine announced by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre on Friday.

Støre announced in Norway’s parliament, the Storting, on Friday that Norway was expecting to receive around 35,000 refugees fleeing war in Ukraine in 2022 and that immigration authorities were working to increase capacity to process up to 100,000 refugees.

The government also announced a package to support business in northern Norway, particularly in east Finnmark, that will be hit by reduced trade between Norway and Russia due to sanctions. The money will be spent on a support scheme to help companies that will see their income hit by sanctions.

Norway also adopted all EU sanctions announced against Russia up until March 9th into law. However, the government said it would not block Russia Today and Sputnik from being broadcast.

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RUSSIA

Norway says it hasn’t breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

Norway is not breaching a century-old treaty covering the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard by blocking Russian cargo to the islands, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday after Moscow threatened retaliatory measures.

Norway says it hasn't breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

“Norway does not violate the Svalbard Treaty,” foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt told AFP. “Norway does not try to put obstacles in the way of supplies” to a Russian coal mining settlement in the area, she said, after Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires over the issue.

Moscow accused Norway of disrupting the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago — which it insists on calling Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard – which has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century. The Svalbard Treaty handing sovereignty to Norway was signed in 1920.

Huitfeldt argued the shipment that was stopped at the Norwegian-Russian border “has been stopped on the basis of the sanctions that prohibit Russian road transport companies from transporting goods on Norwegian territory”.

Goods transport “does not have to go via mainland Norway by Russian truck”, she said, suggesting other solutions could be found to supply the mining community.

Svalbard was exempt from a ban on port calls by Russian-flagged vessels, “and we have clearly signalled our willingness to consider a dispensation from the flight ban”, the minister said.

The situation in the town of Barentsburg, home to the Russian miners, was “normal”, she said.

“Residents have access to food and medicine,” Huitfeldt said. “It is not Norwegian policy to try to force Russian companies or citizens away from Svalbard, or to put obstacles in the way of the business that takes place in accordance with Norwegian laws and regulations.

“At the same time, Norway’s necessary reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine may also have practical consequences for Russian companies on Svalbard, as in Norway in general,” Huitfeldt said.

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