Norway Seeks More Cooperation, Less Tension With Russia

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    Norway Seeks More Cooperation, Less Tension With Russia

    HELSINKI - Russia's re-investment in its northern defenses poses no problems for Norway, which will continue to improve military and political channels of cooperation with Moscow, said Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway's foreign minister.

    "There is no tension between the Norwegian and the Russian militaries, and 15 years of Norwegian-Russian cooperation has removed any tension," Støre told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

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    The Norwegian government estimates that Russia has spent between $12 billion and $15 billion modernizing and strengthening its Murmansk-centered northern defenses since 2004.

    "Norway will, of course, continue to closely monitor Russia's military efforts, but we cannot see that this in any way changes the good relations between Norway and Russia," Støre said.

    Gen. Sverre Diesen, who stepped down as commander of Norway's defense forces at the end of September, warned that the government needs to invest more in providing an adequate level of funding to ensure the credibility of its High North Defense Plan (HNDP). Gen. Harald Sunde took over as head of Norway's defense forces on Oct. 1.

    "Our High North defense can be stronger with more funding. We need a battalion of enlisted soldiers in the region to guarantee that the advanced equipment that we have can be used," said Diesen, who suggested that future government defense reforms should include a shift from a conscription-based to a more professional military.

    The level of Norwegian-Russian cross-border security cooperation has strengthened significantly since 2007. Col. Ivar Magne Sakserud, the head of Norway's Border Defense Department, visited Russia's Rybachiy peninsula on Oct. 1, becoming the first Norwegian military officer to be granted permission to enter this "closed area," which includes strategic military facilities, including Murmansk and Arkhangel.

    "This vote of confidence proves that the relationship and cooperative climate between Norway and Russia is very good," Sakserud said.

    The expanding contacts, both formal and informal, between key military branches of both militaries was evident in September, when the Norwegian Navy frigate KNM Otto Sverdrup visited Murmansk, the Northern Fleet's main base, to participate in the Barents Rescue 2009 exercises, which also involved military and civilian agencies from Sweden and Finland.

    Meetings between Coast Guard, Border Guard and Land Forces from the two countries are currently running at two to three a year, with the most recent high-level meeting taking place Oct. 12 between Vice Adm. Nikolay Maksimov, the commander of Russia's Northern Fleet, and Lt. Gen. Bernt Brovold, the commander of the Norwegian Defense Force's new National Joint Headquarters in Bodø, which opened in Norway's Arctic region in August.

    Norway Seeks More Cooperation, Less Tension With Russia - Defense News
     
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