Norway is markedly ramping up its military posture. The latest news is that the country of 5 million inhabitants plan to join the US/NATO missile defence system. Even though the country is small, it has the sixth biggest military budget per capita, after the United States, Israel, Singapore and some ‘monarchies’ in the Persian Gulf. It is a key area for US military strategy.
During the Cold War, the country had a policy of territorial defence. This has steadily deteriorated since then, with amongst other things the participation in the wars of aggression against Yugoslavia and Libya, and latest, by training ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels.
A joint analysis group from the Norwegian Defence Forces and the US Missile Defence Agency is expected to finalize its advice to the Norwegian government by the end of this year. The group will recommend what capabilities Norway can bring to the NATO ballistic missile defence system. The radar Globus II/III, on the Russian border just a few kilometres from the home base of Russia’s strategic submarines, and the sea based system AEGIS on five Norwegian frigates, are expected to be the main contributions.
The Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MDMDF), which has existed for 17 years, was founded by the USA, the Netherlands and Germany to plan and implement this system. Several other countries have joined later, including Norway in 2014. Now, three years later, the recommendations will be made.
The Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, from the ruling right-wing coalition, already said in a 2015 statement to NTB, «that Norway should be prepared to join such a system, and that Norway, as a NATO-member, is obliged to also be a part of this part of the strategy». This marks a big shift from the country’s original stance. In 2003, when George W. Bush unilaterally left the ABN-treaty, officially to counter threats from Iran, the move was universally condemned across the political landscape.
Jens Stoltenberg, then prime minister for Labour, at a summit in Moscow in 2007, claimed he was sceptical to the system.
Since then, Norway, where defence and security policy normally is done by consensus by the main parties, which all are strongly pro-NATO and the transatlantic alliance, has slowly and in secret moved towards a stance that is more favourable to the missile defence.
The newspaper Klassekampen writes «Cables from the US embassy, leaked by WikiLeaks, show that the US government started an intense diplomatic offensive after Stoltenberg’s statement. Ambassador Ben Whitley wrote: Due to this pressure, Norway will continue to criticise the missile shield in public, while secretly working for missile defence within NATO.»
Stoltenberg was severely criticized internally in the alliance for this statement, and accused of ‘being weak towards Russia’ by VG, a leading newspaper. Since (or more probably, long before) becoming Secretary General of NATO, he has obviously had a change of heart. On May 13, 2016, Jens Stoltenberg personally broke the ground for the construction of the US-led missile defence site in Redzikowo, Poland. The day before that, he and other US and NATO officials gathered in Romania to launch another anti-missile site.
The Defence Ministry said «the NATO ballistic missile defence is a purely defensive capability,» a position that has repeatedly been criticized as a dishonest by Russia, who fears that the US/NATO alliance will be able to make a first strike on Russia without the country being able to make a counter-strike, changing the nuclear balance and making a US nuclear backed diktat possible.
When Denmark decided to join the missile defence in 2015 with several frigates, Russia’s ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin, wrote in an open letter that the country will be a nuclear target if the government joins NATO’s missile defence system. “I don’t think that Danes fully understand the consequence if Denmark joins the American-led missile defence shield,” wrote Vanin. Similar Russian responses came after the bases in Poland and Romania were announced.
Norway participated in an 2015 exercise where the goal was to discover and intercept enemy missiles. A Norwegian frigate participated with radar sensors. Even though all the official notes, for public consumption, only mentions sensors and tracking, these ships presumably are equipped with missiles that are able to shoot down enemy missiles.
According to the book «The Satellite War» by Bård Wormdal, a journalist who have written several books about the secret parts of Norwegian military cooperation with USA , Norway has three important radar stations across the globe. One of them is in Vardø, as close to Russia as you can get, and the other two are placed in [the arctic] Svalbard-archipelago and in Antarctica.
The radar in Vardø and presumably the one in Svalbard, are of high value in American nuclear strategy. They are vital to discover and intercept Russian missiles over the North Pole headed towards continental USA. Over the past few years, there have been a steady stream of senior US politicians inspecting these radars, including Secretary of Defence Ash Carter and über-war hawk John McCain. Svalbard is demilitarized by a 1925 treaty, and the radar is probably in breach of this. John Kerry visited the Svalbard in July 2016, officially to «view effects of climate change.» McCain visited Ny-Aalesund on Svalbard in August 2015, «to highlight the plight of polar bears».
In an interview with NRK in May 2016, professor Theodore M. Postol from MIT, said «the plans should create great national concern.» He feared Norway «would be dragged into a conflict between the great powers.» «The radar in Vardø is of the type GBR-P, formerly deployed on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. It was formerly intended to be the most important radar in the US missile shield, to be deployed in the Czech Republic.» The Norwegian Ministry of Defence issued a denial of professor Postol’s claims, like it routinely denies any information in this sensitive area. «The radar has the same mission as the one it replaces. the Ministry of Defence is therefore of the opinion that there is no reason for reactions towards Norway.»
Researcher Ståle Ulriksen from the Naval War Academy, when asked by Klassekampen if there were any pressure for Norway to join the missile shield, replied «It is something a country such as Norway is expected to join. When Norway develops a defence concept that to such a degree aligns with NATO, as is being done now, then Norway is bound to join things such as these» «It is probably not a question if Norway should join, but when.»
Another researcher, Sverre Lodgaard, said «At the moment it looks like the self-imposed limitations we saw as our interest during the Cold War isn’t valued at the moment. The policy of no foreign bases, for which there was broad political agreement during the Cold War, is now removed [..]» «The change was painless, almost with no debate, and it doesn’t seem like our politicians regards the need for giving reassurance eastwards as being important.»
Norway is planning a drastic change in its military policy, with a far more aggressive posture. 300 US Marines will be deployed in the central areas of Norway, formally on a ‘rotating’ basis. The US forward storage areas in the country, huge caves with equipment for, amongst others, 16.000 Marines, have been upgraded to store state of the art military equipment.
The Norwegian forces will be to a large extent be integrated with other NATO forces. Despite spending 7.3 billion dollars on the military, more than Sweden (5.7 billion), a country with twice the population, former defence chief Sverre Diesen said «Norway and other small states are probably to small to maintain their own national defence.» He envisages a closer cooperation and shared capabilities with other NATO allies or [neutral] Finland and Sweden. This is a barely disguised wish to draw these countries into NATO’s orbit.
The main parties (Labour and the two largest rightwing parties) want an increased focus on ‘strategic assets’ like F-35, submarines and surveillance capabilities. The ground forces are to get less priority, except for an elite expeditionary force that can be used at the request of other allies, for all practical purposes US-imperialism. In the event of a NATO war with Russia, Norway could find itself with its strongest forces thousands of kilometres away while being totally dependent on US/NATO forces for territorial defence. In the case of a war, 52 Norwegian F-35 bombers are supposed to execute deep strikes in Russian territory, against ships, naval bases and air bases.
As an indication that the next war will be nuclear, these naval bases are the core of Russian strategic Northern Fleet. An attack on these without Russian nuclear retaliation is unthinkable.
To finish with the words of professor Postol, «It is only a matter of time before this rearmament leads to a serious confrontation between Russia, China and USA/NATO.»
This article is Creative Commons for non-commercial purposes. A version of it was published on WSWS 13/01/2017