Norway expands defense agreement with American troops
An amendment agreement was signed by U.S. Ambassador Marc Nathason and Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram on Friday.
“In today’s security environment, we must continue to strengthen the relationship with our allies. It is important for our security and for the entire Nordic region,” Minister Gram said and underlined that “the United States is our closest ally.”
The original agreement signed in 2021 included four facilities and areas where the United States could build infrastructure and train together with Norwegian forces.
With eight new, there will be a total of 12 pre-defined military facilities and areas under the so-called Supplementary Defense Cooperation Agreement (SDCA). The amendment is now pending the consent of the Norwegian Parliament.
“The security challenges and the operational requirements are greater and more serious now, compared to when the SDCA was negotiated in 2021,” Bjørn Arild Gram said on Friday.
In December, NATO’s newest member Finland signed a similar bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement in Washington D.C. that regulates US access to and use of several military facilities and areas across Finland, including prepositioning of defense equipment, supplies and materials, and entry and movement of US aircraft, vessels and vehicles. Lapland is a key priority area highlighted in the agreement, with five of the 15 locations, including Rovaniemi Air Base and Ivalo Border Guard Base.
With Finland in NATO and Sweden on the doorstep, cross-border military cooperation in northern Europe has entered a new era after Russia’s full-scale brutal war against Ukraine.
“More agreed facilities and areas in Norway will also have a positive effect in a Nordic context,” Defence Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said.
The proposed new agreed facilities and areas are Andøya air station and airfield, Ørland air station and airfield, Haakonsvern naval station, Værnes garrison, air station and airfield, Bardufoss air station and airfield, Setermoen garrison with firing range and exercise area, Osmarka cave complex and Namsen fuel terminal.
NATO kicks off its Nordic Response 2024 wargame in March, an exercise that will be the biggest for the alliance inside the Arctic Circle in a generation.
About 20,000 soldiers will participate.
A core element of Nordic Response is to train cross-border defense and movement of military hardware between the northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland.
Air forces will be active with about 100 aircraft. Outside the coast of northern Norway, over 50 submarines, frigates, corvettes, aircraft carriers, and various amphibious vessels will be active.
Moscow had by Friday afternoon not commented on Norway’s expanded agreement with the United States. Moscow’s propaganda voice, Maria Zakharova, in 2021 said Oslo followed a deliberate and destructive line towards aggravating tensions in the Euro-Arctic region.
Pointing to the recently signed agreement which opens for the United States to use four dedicated locations in Norway for joint military purposes, Zakharova said “… this is yet another proof that Oslo is gradually abandoning the policy of self-imposed restraints.”
She continued: “This is fully in line with the policy of military build-up and active involvement of NATO in the Arctic.”