At a press conference in Bardufoss on Tuesday, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace presented the new strategy for the northern region. According to Wallace, this obliges Britain to strengthen its military presence in the North and the Arctic.
“We’re doing this to make sure that when that day comes, we can handle it,” Wallace said, referring to a possible attack from Russia.
Among other things, British defense is contributing with increased surveillance at sea and on land, and with new ships and infrastructure. Among the contributions is an anti-submarine fleet designed to detect Russian submarines.
Next to the British defense minister was the Norwegian Odd Roger Enoksen (Sp).
– Great Britain is our most important ally in Europe. The fact that they spend so much time practicing and training with us in the north is important, Enoksen told TV 2.
British auxiliaries include a “naval strike group” consisting of a group of ships with 300-400 troops and several helicopters.
– It is located or active in the north and cooperates with Norway, Sweden and Finland, said Wallace.
He also said he would discuss with Norway how much more presence they want in the northern region.
Competition for resources
A NATO exercise involving more than 30,000 troops from 27 countries ends this week. Previously, both NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre visited Bardufoss and practiced.
During Stoltenberg’s visit, the Secretary General warned of Russia’s increased interest in the Arctic.
– We also see an increase in Chinese interest in the region. China has defined itself as an “Arctic neighbor” and is increasing its presence, Stoltenberg said.
He also announced an increase in NATO’s presence in the north.
– We cannot allow a security vacuum at the bottom. This exercise is an example of that. And more will be needed in the future.
The British defense minister also used the press conference held in Bardufoss to talk about how important the Arctic is and will remain in future security policy. Climate change, competition for the region’s resources and minerals, and securing critical infrastructure such as submarine cables are factors that will come into play.
“We’ve already experienced attacks on underwater cables,” Wallace said.
Andøya and Bodø for discussion
Wallace put a lot of emphasis on 50 years of defense cooperation with Norway and what that means in a possible attack situation.
– If Russia makes a stupid move and attacks a NATO country, we will confront an enemy that will not hold back. Then it’s the skills that separate us, and that’s why 50 years of training is important.
When asked if there are plans to close the Andøya and Bodø bases, Enoksen says that this is something the government is currently looking at.
– We’re looking at how we can host allies well enough, and there are challenges with decommissioning Bodø and Andøya, so those are things we’re looking at.
At the beginning of March, it became clear that the government will provide three billion kroons to strengthen the defense forces and half a billion kroons to strengthen civil preparedness. A large part of the amount goes to Northern Norway.
- NOK 650 million will go to national forces thanks to increased training activities in northern Norway.
- 800 million will go to increased monitoring of Norwegian sea areas.
- NOK 350 million will go to the reception of allies, especially in Northern Norway.
- 200 million will go to strengthen the ability of the National Intelligence Service and the Defense Forces to counter digital threats.
- 1 billion will go to emergency supplies and increased ammunition, equipment and fuel stocks.