As Russia re-arms, this is the best response NATO has to offer?
Norway’s ambition of persuading NATO to establish a strong direct military presence in the Arctic High North — and as a strategic counterweight to Russia’s intensifying rearming programs in the region — suffered a setback after the leader of NATO said the alliance has no plans to expand its role there.
Russia’s multibillion-dollar rearming of its northern and eastern naval, air and land combat capabilities has raised the ire of its Nordic neighbors in recent weeks.
On March 30, Russian fighter jets and bombers staged a large-scale, Cold War-type simulated bomb-run attack on military and industrial targets on the Swedish mainland. That produced a highly critical riposte in political quarters in Sweden after it emerged that the Swedish Air Force (SAF) had no capacity on that night to scramble JAS Gripen fighter jets to deal with the simulated threat.
Much to Sweden’s embarrassment, the immediate threat was handled by Danish F-16s operating from NATO’s Baltic air policing station at Siauliai in Lithuania.
Although NATO is aware of increasing concerns among Nordic and Baltic nations about Russia’s military rebuilding programs, there will be no major change in the alliance’s strategic position in the High North, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
“At this present time, NATO has no intention of raising its presence and activities in the High North,” he said.
Tensions in the region, and the potential for disputes over sovereign rights to the region’s estimated vast oil and natural gas resources, could be best handled through dialogue, the NATO chief said.
“The Arctic is a harsh environment. It rewards cooperation, not confrontation,” Rasmussen said. “I trust we’ll continue to see cooperation.”
When has Russia ever responded to anything other than superior force?