- The preparation for the hike took 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 army on high alert from Tuesday, moving more personnel to operational tasks and bolstering the role of a rapid mobilization force in response to the war in Ukraine, the government said Monday.
Norway will also seek to bring its new fleet of American-made P-8 Poseidons submarine hunting maritime patrol aircraft in regular operation at a faster pace than originally planned, said Chief of Defense General Eirik Kristoffersen.
The alert scale on which the army operates is classified, however, and the government declined to give details of the level.
No concrete threat against Norway triggered the decision, Kristoffersen told Reuters, but rather it was the sum of “uncertainties” that led authorities to increase the country’s military preparedness.
“We have seen an escalation (of the war) in Ukraine, we (Norway) are training Ukrainian forces, the war in Ukraine has changed with Russian mobilization,” he said in an interview.
“And at the same time we had a gas explosion in the Baltic Sea and drone activity on the North Sea platforms.”
The high level is expected to last a year, “maybe more,” Kristoffersen added.
Norway first deployed its military to protect offshore platforms and onshore facilities after leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines on 26 September in Swedish and Danish waters and received support from British, Dutch, French and German armed forces.
The country’s security police arrested last week a suspected Russian spy and also participates in the protection of gas exports, vital for the energy supply of Europe this winter.
NATO member Norway shares a nearly 200 km (125 mile) land border with Russia in the Arctic, as well as an extensive maritime border.
The Nordic nation of 5.4 million people is also now the biggest exporter of natural gas to the European Union, accounting for around a quarter of all EU imports after a drop in Russian flows.
“The continuation of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s attempts to weaken (international) support for Ukraine means that all countries in Europe must consider themselves exposed to hybrid threats. Including Norway .” Prime Minister Jonas Garh Stoere told Reuters.
Armed forces will spend less time training and more time on operational tasks. The Home Guard, a rapid mobilization force, will play a more active role.
The Air Force had canceled training in the United States with its F35 fighter jets, preferring to keep them in Norway, Kristoffersen said.
Report by Gwladys Fouché; Written by Terje Solsvik; Editing by John Stonestreet, Alison Williams and Alex Richardson
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