Norwegian Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen wants to see NATO “raise its profile in the High North” as the Arctic region is sometime referred to. It is a view that will receive a cold reception in Moscow.
Addressing the Atlantic Council of Finland earlier this week, Strom-Erichsen said : “An increased NATO profile in the Arctic should be tailored not to unnecessarily provoke Russia, but to demonstrate Allied interest in the area.” Irrespective of the quality of the tailoring, the present Russian regime is unlikely to be sanguine about increased alliance interest in the region.
This, however, is not a reason for not upping NATO engagement – far from it – but there should be no surprise if it provokes irate comment from Red Square.
Russia is the only non-Nato member of the five Arctic Ocean states: Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States are all in the alliance. Moscow has substantial military infrastructure – nuclear and conventional – in the region, and is also increasingly interested in natural resource exploitation.
The Norwegian minister noted that: "Over the last years, Russia has shown an increased willingness to engage in political rhetoric and even use of military force. The “zero-sum” approaches in Russian security thinking are a challenge for the West. This includes the increased tendency on the part of Russia to think in terms of geopolitical spheres of influence.”
This has been accompanied by increased Russian military activity including the “by the renewal of training sorties of strategic bombers across the Barents Sea into the Norwegian- and North Sea,” and increased “naval exercise activity and deployments.”
Picture Credit 331 Squadron RNoAF