Norway to allow US to build military facilities on its soil in new pact
Iran Press TV
Saturday, 17 April 2021 6:12 AM
Norway has signed an agreement with the US to build facilities on its airfields and a naval base amid growing tensions between the US-led military alliance and neighboring Russia.
"The agreement regulates and facilitates US presence, training and exercises in Norway, thus facilitating rapid US reinforcement of Norway in the event of crisis or war," the Norwegian government said.
The government further noted that the accord between the two founding NATO members will let the American military build facilities in three Norwegian air bases and one of its naval facilities, which would not constitute separate US bases.
"Our cooperation with our allies is under continuous development. The agreement reaffirms Norway's close relationship with the US and confirms Norway's key position on the northern flank of NATO," Norway's Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said about the military pact made by the country's minority government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg which must be ratified by the parliament before being enacted.
"Our policies regarding the stationing of foreign forces on Norwegian territory, the stockpiling or deployment of nuclear weapons and port visits remain unchanged," Soereide added.
Since joining NATO in 1949, Norway has claimed it would not allow the building of foreign bases or the stockpiling of nuclear weapons on its soil, although Western troops would be welcome to conduct military drills there.
The development came as relations between Oslo and Moscow – which had improved in the post-Cold War era -- suffered a setback following the unification of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea with Russia in 2014 after a referendum that overwhelmingly favored the move.
The Kremlin recently accused the US military of escalating tensions in the resource-rich Arctic region by taking provocative measures, insisting that Russian activities there do not pose a threat to any country.
Rejecting the latest US claims about Russia's "unprecedented military might in the Arctic," Moscow's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova emphasized during a press briefing on April 9 that "Russia does not do anything in the Arctic that would contradict international law or pose a threat to other countries."
"If we talk about possible sources of the escalating regional tensions, it would be logical to say that this is the military activity of the US and its allies in the Arctic, which is accompanied by belligerent rhetoric," Zakharova added.
"NATO and its member states, including non-Arctic nations, stage provocations there, and it happens on an increasingly regular basis," she further noted.
The reaction came after US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby stated earlier that the Pentagon was closely monitoring Russian activities in the Arctic shelf, suggesting that Washington was anxious about increasing Russian presence in the region.
Zakharova's remarks also coincided with Russian Defense Ministry announcement that it will deploy more than 10 navy vessels, including landing boats and artillery warships, from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea to take part in naval drills near the country's borders with Ukraine.
"As part of the winter training check, more than 10 amphibious and artillery boats and vessels of the southern military district are conducting an inter-fleet move from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea," the ministry said, noting that the drills will involve approximately 15,000 personnel to inspect their combat readiness.
The declaration came as Ukraine announced its own snap naval drills in the Black Sea with the US navy mulling the deployment of its warships in that body of water in a show of force.
Russia's Caspian Flotilla vessels were due to join their Navy counterparts in the Black Sea for exercises focused on testing their "readiness to repel sea and airborne assault forces," according to the defense ministry, which underlined that the deployment poses no threat and is part of the recently announced "control checks."
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