Russia announced on Wednesday, November 2nd, that it views Norway’s work with other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as provocative, warning that Norway’s efforts to bolster its military in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year will likely be the death knell for Oslo-Moscow relations moving forward.
“Oslo is now among the most active supporters of NATO’s involvement in the Arctic,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Wednesday, according to TASS. “We consider such developments near Russian borders as Oslo’s deliberate pursuit of a destructive course toward escalation of tensions in the Euro-Arctic region and the final destruction of Russian-Norwegian relations.”
In her statement, Zakharova also warned that any further “unfriendly actions will be followed by a timely and adequate response.”
The news of Russia’s complaints about Norway comes just a day after Norway raised its military alert level in response to suspicious drone sightings. Norway has arrested several Russians, including one son of an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, and accused them of illegally flying drones in Norwegian airspace or taking photos in restricted areas as concerns abound about potential Russian attacks on critical infrastructure. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre warned Russia to cut it out, according to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
NATO countries ought to be on alert to Russia’s aggression in light of the war in Ukraine, Støre warned Monday.
“Today, we have no reason to believe that Russia will want to involve Norway or any other country directly in the war,” Støre said. “But the war in Ukraine makes it necessary for all NATO countries to be more vigilant.”
Norway has previously hosted exercises and has long hosted rotational deployments of U.S. troops for arctic training. Russia’s announcement comes weeks after the U.S. Air Force participated in a combat arctic integration training exercise with NATO allies and the Royal Norwegian Air Force at Norway’s Ørland Main Air Station, according to the U.S. Defense Department. The allies worked to operate quickly across weapons platforms and systems to try to deter Russia along NATO’s eastern flank.
“The sum is that together, we can better defend not only Norway and the Nordic countries, but also Europe should the need arise,” Col. Martin Tesli, the 132nd Luftving Base commander, said in a statement.
The U.S. Air Force’s 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed for the exercise was also able to work with the Air Force from Finland, which is in the process of joining NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow’s warning appeared to be just the latest Russian attempt to assert its own narrative as its relationships with countries across Europe and the West continue to deteriorate.
It’s not the first time Russia has tried to raise red flags over what it sees as provocative action from European countries and NATO cooperation. Moscow warned before it invaded Ukraine this year that it views the expansion of members in NATO—which was established to counter threats from the Soviet Union—as a threat to Russia. The Kremlin has maintained that Ukraine’s interest in joining the military alliance poses a threat to Russia, a claim it had repeated in recent days.
Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and European nations is “the most serious security policy situation we have experienced in several decades,” Støre emphasized.
Norway has been working to help Ukraine defend against Russia’s invasion since the outset of the war. The country has sanctioned the Russian government in an attempt to get Moscow to back off from the war and had provided Ukraine with military assistance. The assistance includes an air defense system, Mistral surface-to-air missiles, thousands of anti-tank missiles, protective gear such as bulletproof vests and helmets, and armored vehicles.
Oslo has also sought to ramp up its military budget. Just last month, Norway proposed boosting its defense budget for next year by nearly 10 percent, according to Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram. A chunk of the increase is dedicated to weapons for Ukraine’s defense against Russia.
“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a threat to Norwegian and European security. The war has already had major security political, economic, and humanitarian consequences,” Gram said. “The need for military support to Ukraine is necessary, extensive, and time-critical. This budget strengthens the Armed Forces and stands up for Ukraine.”
Norway is also helping to train Ukrainian soldiers alongside the U.K. and has promised to provide Ukraine over $1.1 billion (in USD) in financial assistance over the next two years.
Norway isn’t the only nation Russia has protested in recent days. Late last month Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Moscow sees no point in maintaining diplomatic relations with Western states writ large.
Lavrov noted that Russia would like to focus its world diplomacy on countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, rather than work with the West.
“We will shift the ‘center of gravity’ to countries that are ready to cooperate with us on equal and mutually beneficial terms and look for promising joint projects,” Lavrov said.