Oslo has opted to violate its own established practice of refusing to station foreign troops on the country's soil during peacetime, and is more than doubling the number of US marines stationed in Norway from 330 to 700, and providing bases for US surveillance aircraft and fighter jets. The Marines will be moved from Trondheim, about 1,500 km from the Russian border, to the northern county of Troms, about 300 km from Norway's border with Russia.
Speaking to Sputnik, Dr. Bjorn Nystad, a former University of Oslo professor who lost his job in 2010 over alleged "Russophilic views," said that the growing US military presence is taking place against the background of a steady campaign of spreading anti-Russian sentiments in the Norwegian media.
The latest manifestation of this anti-Russian paranoia occurred this week, when the NRK and TV 2 broadcasters decided to head to the World Cup with brand new laptops and phones out of fear of being "monitored" or "cyberattacked" while in Russia.
Nystad believes these anti-Russian attitudes are being injected into the Norwegian consciousness from above. "It's enough, for example, to write an article about Putin being a 'dictator', or something like that, and you will get a job at a university without any problems," he said. The professor's own 2016 biography on Putin was met with hostility, with Aftenposten's editor describing it as a "dangerous rewriting of history."
There are many in Norway who have a neutral attitude toward Russia, Nystad said, but they fear running into trouble with the established narrative. "Academics, experts, and journalists understand very well that if they say something 'wrong' about Russia, they could lose their jobs. Therefore everyone avoids running into conflict with authorities," he noted.
Probably the "pinnacle" of the anti-Russian campaign is the widely publicized TV series Okkupert (Occupied), whose storyline features Russia occupying Norway in response to a Europe-wide energy crisis. The most expensive television series in Norway's history, Okkupert has been picked up for a third season.
"For some part of the population, these kinds of series probably have an effect," Nystad noted. But others understand that this is "stupidity and anti-Russian propaganda," he added. "People are losing trust in the media and politicians. They are starting to think critically. Alternative media have appeared, along with popular bloggers. And our elite is now terrified of losing power," the academic concluded.