Oslo — Norway and Russia have agreed to improve cross-border military relations and expand cooperation in multibranch exercises and common strategic and environment-based programs in their Arctic territories.
The desire on the part of both countries to strengthen political and military cooperation was reinforced during high-level talks here on March 30 between Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov and Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide and Roger Ingebrigtsen, state secretary for defense.
Closer, more regular dialogue is regarded as central to Norway’s new “friendly neighbor-building” strategy with Russia to improve trust between the two countries.
The meeting discussed the ongoing reorganization of Norway’s and Russia’s naval, air and land forces in the strategic High North, including Norway’s plan to establish a new Arctic Brigade and NATO’s missile defense plan for Europe, which Russia is robustly opposed to. In late 2011, Russia announced plans to create an armored Arctic brigade on the Kola Peninsula.
For its part, Norway will convert one of its High North battalions into a dedicated Arctic unit comprising naval and Army special forces units supported by mechanized infantry equipment and vehicles, and reinforced when needed by specialized air and naval wings.
Norway’s rapid-response Arctic Brigade will be built from the reformed mechanized infantry 2nd Battalion based in Skjold, in the High North’s Troms county. The 2nd Battalion is part of Brigade Nord, which contributed a significant number of troops to Norway’s ISAF contingent in northern Afghanistan.
In March 2011, Russia identified the 200th Motorized Infantry Brigade in Pechenga, based six miles from the Russian-Norwegian border, as the unit that would be converted to Arctic brigade status.
“Our relations with Russia have never been better than they are now,” Ingebrigtsen said. “We want to deepen the good relationship that we have even further. Among other things, we would like to hold more joint training exercises, both on land and at sea, probably in 2013.”
The strengthened relationship, Antonov said, is reflected in the fact that the two militaries will participate in 24 joint exercises and events over the next 12 months.
“The relationship with Norway is good, and we want to achieve more cooperation,” Antonov said. “Each of us has homework to do in terms of finding ways to progress the relationship further. The goal for both sides is increased security in the High North, which can only benefit our countries.”
The annual naval exercise POMOR-2012, which takes place in May, will be the next major demonstration of stronger bilateral military collaboration between Norway and Russia. The exercise will involve Norwegian and Russian naval and air assets, including frigates, destroyers, helicopter support and combat aircraft. The range of joint tasks will include boarding operations, search and rescue, air defense, navigation and interoperability of communication procedures and systems.
Russia’s Northern Fleet has confirmed it will be sending its antisubmarine warfare (ASW) ship Admiral Chabanenko, Su-33 fighter jets, Il-38 ASW aircraft and Ka-27 ship-based helicopters to participate in POMOR-2012.