OSLO, June 14. /TASS/. Moscow believes that the upcoming increase in the foreign military presence in Norway to be a hostile step on Oslo’s part that cannot go without consequences, the Russian embassy in Norway said on Facebook.
On Tuesday, Norwegian authorities announced their intention to extend the country’s program for defense cooperation with the US for at least five years. It is a program in accordance with which 330 US Marines were deployed to western Norway in January 2017. More than 300 additional marine troops are expected to be posted to Setermoen in northern Norway following the current talks between Oslo and Washington.
Besides, the Norwegian Defense Ministry announced that the US planned to build infrastructure facilities for four fighter aircraft at the Rygge air base near Oslo. Being Norway’s neighboring country, Russia is highly concerned about these developments.
"Such actions run counter to the decision Norway made in 1949 not to allow foreign states to set up military bases on the country’s territory until Norway was under attack or threat of attack." Such steps indicate that Norway is not predictable enough, they may lead to rising tensions and trigger an arms race, destabilizing the situation in northern Europe," the Russian embassy said, adding that "we consider them to be clearly unfriendly so they cannot go without consequences."
According to Russian diplomats, Norway’s claims that the US troops are deployed to the county on a rotational rather than permanent basis should mislead no one. In fact, the military presence will be continuous, while troops will change regularly. The embassy added that "this is the way all military bases and even embassies operate."
"We are particularly concerned that Oslo is implementing these plans when there is neither substantive political dialogue nor meaningful contact between the [Russian and Norwegian] militaries, as Norway has been avoiding contacts," the statement says.
"We believe that European security must be equal and indivisible. It is only possible to ensure it if true national interests are pursued, while there is mutual respect and cooperation. The sooner Oslo comes to realize it the better," the Russian embassy said.
Russian diplomats added that constant calls for increasing Norway’s defense expenditures sounded strange, to say the least, given that Norway was the second NATO country with the biggest per capita defense spending, following the US, while Russia "spends 18 times less money on defense than NATO members do." Moreover, Russia has been cutting its defense budget since 2017.