Representatives of the Social Left Party (SV) and the Center Party have expressed fears that with its broader military cooperation with the US the Norwegian government was relinquishing Norwegian bases to the Americans.
SV leader Audun Lysbakken, who has been complaining about cuts to the Norwegian armed forces, called the move "unwise," national broadcaster NRK reported.
"It is sad that the government believes it is in Norway's interest to say yes to whatever the US is asking for. The goal for Norwegian security policy must be the lowest possible tension in the North. A clear presence of strong national defense contributes to lower tension, while more American soldiers may, on the contrary, increase the tension," Lysbakken explained, calling the current defense line "misunderstood."
Liv Signe Navarsete, a Center Party member of the parliament's foreign policy and defense committee, said her party had demanded "some clear answers" from the government.
The Norwegian government is open to increased military cooperation with the US, which involves a doubling of US troops and the use of airfields at Rygge in the South and Andøya in the North for US reconnaissance aircraft and warplanes.
First and foremost, the increase will affect the number of US marines stationed in Norway, going from around 330 to 700. At least an equal number to those stationed at Værnes, north of Trondheim will be positioned at Setermoen in Troms County. Formally, the soldiers are not permanently stationed in the area, but are involved in a rotation system that includes stretches of training in Norway.
According to Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen, the Norwegian parliament has given the green light to the scheme for at least five years. It is also slated for re-evaluation midway through the period.
"The defense of Norway is dependent on the support of our allies in NATO, as is the case with most other NATO countries. In order for this support to work in times of crises and war, we are fully dependent on exercising and practicing in peace," Bakke-Jensen said.
The US military expansion, which was said to be part of the nation's deterrence efforts in Europe, reportedly featured two air bases. While Rygge, Østfold County, was named as a likely base for up to four US F-22 Raptor combat aircraft, Andøya, Nordland County, is being groomed to host US Poseidon P-8 surveillance aircraft as part of NATO's effort to chart Russian submarine activity in the Barents and Norwegian seas. Torbjørn Bongo, the leader of the Norwegian officers' federation (NOF) has estimated the number of Poseidons to be deployed to Andøya as "relatively large." The US surveillance aircraft normally fly from Keflavik, Iceland, not Norway. Washington has also proposed spending more than $10 million to improve infrastructure at the Rygge base, which is situated 60 kilometers from Oslo.
Foreign Minister and former Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said she expected negative reactions from the Russian side as a result of the decision, but claimed that there was "no reasonable basis" for such reactions. Russian diplomats have previously expressed concern over these developments, noting that the US military presence had a "destabilizing" effect on the North and violated the traditions of Norwegian-Russian good neighborliness.
Many have also argued that Oslo's pivot in security policy violates a 1949 declaration repudiating foreign bases on Norwegian soil.