One of NATO’s founding members is urgently trying to walk back tensions and lower the potential for confrontation with Russia at a moment the accusatory rhetoric surrounding Ukraine continues putting Russia-Europe relations on edge. Norway’s foreign minister Anniken Huitfeld has announced that the Scandinavian country wants American, British, and other NATO aircraft and vessels to keep their distance from Russia’s border.
“It is important for Norway to be militarily present in our immediate surroundings. But very close to the Russian border, we believe that we do it best ourselves, with Norwegian planes and Norwegian frigates. It is fundamental for us,” Anniken Huitfeldt told the newspaper Verdens Gang. Her words were subsequently translated and presented in Russian media sources.
Recently the Norwegian government led by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre declared it wants to improve relations with its large, powerful neighbor Russia. The two share a far northern nearly 200km border.
Huitfeldt was asked by the Norwegian publication whether she wants foreign NATO military assets to stay away from coming near the Russian border, given Moscow would feel provoked.
She appeared to respond in the affirmative: “It is in Norway’s interest to take care of these areas on its own, with the Norwegian defense,” the top diplomat reiterated. The government appears wary of the potential for the type of misunderstanding or inadvertent conflict incident seen for example in the Black Sea region over the past years, with a prime example being the Kerch Strait incident, or also the rise in aircraft intercepts between the US and Russia.
Recently there have been encounters between the Russia and Norway’s navies in the Norwegian Sea. Though without incident, the encounters are closely monitored and a source of tensions. (Click Here)
Meanwhile a former top Norwegian commander was even more blunt in his assessment that NATO patrols should stay away without express permission from Oslo.
“We are trying to tell our partners that Norway is NATO in the north. The Russians are used to Norwegian planes and vessels’ presence in the Barents Sea,” ex-commander of the Armed Forces’ operational headquarters Rune Jakobsen told the same publication, Verdens Gang.