HELSINKI – Norway has finalized an updated security agreement with Russia that adds strengthened protocols for avoiding high-risk encounters between aircraft and naval vessels in the High North region. The agreement comes at a time when Norway and Russia have increased military activities there.
The updated agreement includes new enhancements to the existing Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA) between the two nations. “The reality is we are seeing more military activity in Norway’s neighborhood in the High North. Russia has increased its activity, and Norway’s Armed Forces have also bolstered their presence,” said Frank Bakke-Jensen, Norway’s defense minister.
The updated pact covers the operations of naval ships and military aircraft outside the 12 nautical miles territorial water limit. The agreement’s updated protocols also apply to “prohibited actions” involving private and commercial marine vessels and civilian planes.
The cross-border agreement also incorporates new transparency procedures related to communications in dealing with “near encounters” risks and other dangerous situations. These include prohibitions, injunctions and liaison procedures for naval ships and military aircraft. The INCSEA defines what information channels must be used in different risk and incident situations.
Norway has a 122 mile (196 km) border with Russia.
This scaled-up military activities in the High North, Bakke-Jensen said, made it more important to revisit INCSEA and strengthen its functioning mechanisms to ensure improved safety between the militaries of the two countries. Norway and Russia signed their first INCSEA in 1990.
“Military technologies have advanced and continue to advance. The updated agreement will contribute to reducing the risk of dangerous situations while increasing overall stability in the High North,” said Bakke-Jensen.
The INCSEA deal represents one of the principal forms of cross-border cooperation between Norway and Russia. Military collaboration between the two neighbors changed significantly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Up to 2014, Norway and Russia, with the Northern Fleet prominent, regularly conducted joint naval exercises in the Barents and Norwegian seas. Following Crimea, Norway, together with other NATO member states, suspended most forms of military cooperation with Russia.
Gerard O'Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.