Norway and the US are now working to update the Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement concluded in the 1950s, Norwegian military newspaper Forsvarets Forum reported.
The Norwegian Defence Ministry is very tight-lipped with information, revealing neither the reason for the negotiations, nor their content.
“No final date has been set for the negotiations between the US and Norway. It is too early to say anything more about the process now,” Defence Ministry press officer Lars Gjemble told NRK.
During the Cold War-era, Norway received 300 fighter jets and 8,000 military vehicles free of charge. During the Cold War period and up until 1996, the total amount of US aid to Norway reached NOK 83 billion ($8.7 billion).
When the agreement between the US and Norway was entered in 1950, Norway sought primarily to strengthen its Armed Forces in the country, which had been ravaged by World War II and needed weapons and assistance from outside. For the US, it was about safeguarding American security interests.
US military aid should not be confused with civilian aid provided through the Marshall Plan. Starting from 1948, Norway received what is today equivalent to NOK 60 billion ($6.3 billion), which was spent on the purchase of agricultural products, oil, coal, and industrial goods.
The negotiations didn't go unnoticed by critics. Reds leader Bjørnar Moxnes argued that closer military cooperation with the US was the wrong way to go for Norway, as it leads to superpower rivalry in the country's neighbouring areas. According to Moxnes, the renewed military agreement will lead to changes in Norwegian security policy which will conflict with Norwegian interests. He also stressed that the public wasn't made duly aware of the negotiations.
“Alas, we see time and again that the government prioritises loyalty to the US over openness and democracy. In general, it must be a matter of course that the parliament is informed about all types of agreements that have an impact on Norwegian security policy,” Moxnes underscored to national broadcaster NRK, demanding an answer from Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen.
Norway Seeking to Boost Military Cooperation Between East and West
Norway has in recent years enjoyed broad cooperation with the US that includes port calls by US submarines, US Marines' presence on a rotating basis, surveillance, and numerous joint drills. Norway's top brass and high-ranking politicians often cite Russia's military upgrades in the Arctic region as the underlying reason.
At the same time, Norway has been beefing up cooperation with its Nordic cousins. Earlier this week, Norway signed a trilateral cooperation agreement with Sweden and Finland, which in the words of Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist is specifically meant as a “signal to Russia”.
Bilateral Russian-Norwegian relations have in recent years soured, due to reciprocal espionage accusations and a military build-up, leading to mutual distrust.