Even Norway, ensconced in the most developed corner of the world, is worried about conflict with the Russians.
Today, Stephen Saideman, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and a leading expert on Canadian defence and foreign policy, posted an account of his meeting with Lt. Gen Morten Haga Lunde, a Norwegian three-star general and head of his military’s “operational command headquarters,” and various diplomats.
According to Saideman, the Norwegians are increasingly worried about possible Russian inroads into the Arctic region, which makes sense as Russian president Vladimir Putin has taken an aggressive stance towards neighbours that threaten Moscow’s perceived interests.
“Proximity breeds concern but not contempt,” Saideman writes of Norway’s view of possible Russian moves in the Arctic. But that concern is focused around NATO’s ability to defend the alliance’s interests in the Arctic in the face of possible Russian aggression: “The Norwegians want NATO to look at ye olde plans and come up with some new ones,” Saidaman writes, “since the old ones were overcome by events in 1989-1991.”
In short, Norway wants the alliance to be better prepared to fight a war in an Arctic environment.
“The Norwegians would like to see more NATO activity up in the high north — more training, more doctrine, more exercises and the like — since it is a difficult ‘battlespace,'” writes Saideman.
Considering Saideman’s post, it’s less surprising that Norway was the world’s 18th largest arms importer for the period between 2008 and 2012, according to the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI).
Russia isn’t Norway’s only area of potential concern, either. Saideman writes that the Norwegians are aware of growing ties between Iceland and China. “This would, of course, alarm anyone who read Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising,” Seideman notes, “since Iceland was pivotal to command of the North Atlantic.”
The weapons transfers in SIPRI’s database give an added sense of Norway’s strategic approach. Most of Norway’s acquisitions are upgrades to existing systems, like Ocean Master aircraft radar for its helicopter fleet, or 11 Super Rapid naval guns for its frigates. Norway isn’t building a weapons stockpile, but they’re nevertheless mindful of emerging challenges in their neighbourhood.
And Norway isn’t far from the Arctic Sea’s “doughnut hole” — the potentially resource-rich international waters surrounding the north pole that could easily become a point of contention between Russia and the NATO states. Norway doesn’t need to be a military power. But it’s keeping its arsenal and technology as up to date as possible. They’re one of the countries involved in the development of the F-35, which will supposedly be the most advanced warplane in history.
As Saideman writes of the Norwegians, “These guys know how the punch above their weight.”
And they also know how to resist strategic complacency, even in the most peaceful and prosperous region on earth.
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