- Seen hiked readiness that lasts a year could be longer
- Norway is now Europe’s largest gas supplier
- Shares a border with Russia in the Arctic
OSLO, Oct. 31 (Reuters) – Norway will put its military on an increased level of alertness from Tuesday, shift more personnel to operational duties and strengthen the role of a rapid mobilization force in response to the war in Ukraine, the government said on Monday.
Norway will also try to deploy its new fleet of US-made P-8 Poseidon submarine-hunting maritime patrol aircraft at a faster pace than originally planned, chief of defense General Eirik Kristoffersen said.
However, the alarm scale on which the military operates has been classified and the government declined to provide details on the level.
There were no concrete threats against Norway leading to the decision, Kristoffersen told Reuters, but the sum of “the uncertainties” led authorities to increase the country’s military preparedness.
“We have seen an escalation (in the war) in Ukraine, we (Norway) are training Ukrainian troops, the war in Ukraine has changed with the Russian mobilization,” he said in an interview.
“And at the same time, we’ve had a gas explosion in the Baltic Sea and drone activity on North Sea platforms.”
The elevated level is expected to last for a year, “possibly more,” Kristoffersen added.
Norway first deployed its military to monitor offshore platforms and onshore facilities after leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines in Swedish and Danish waters on September 26 and has received support from British, Dutch, French and German forces.
The country’s security police arrested a suspected Russian spy last week and are also involved in protecting gas exports, which will be vital to Europe’s energy supply this winter.
NATO member Norway shares a nearly 200 km (125 mi) land border with Russia in the Arctic, as well as a huge sea border.
The Scandinavian country of 5.4 million is now also the largest exporter of natural gas to the European Union, accounting for about a quarter of all EU imports after a decline in Russian flows.
“The continuation of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s attempts to weaken (international) support for Ukraine, mean that all countries in Europe must bear in mind that they are exposed to hybrid threats, including Norway.” Prime Minister Jonas Garh Stoere told Reuters that.
The armed forces will spend less time on training and more time on operational tasks. The Home Guard, a rapid mobilization force, will play a more active role.
The Air Force had stopped training its F35 fighter jets in the United States, preferring to keep them in Norway, Kristoffersen said.
Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Written by Terje Solsvik; Editing by John Stonestreet, Alison Williams and Alex Richardson
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