02:58 GMT28 September 2020
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    Constant flights by spy planes is just one of the signs of the alliance's growing presence near Russia's borders – a process that has intensified since relations between the country and the West started to deteriorate in 2014.

    Despite being a member of the alliance since its inception, Norway has long remained cautious about letting in a massive NATO contingent. This approach, originally designed to avoid an escalation of tensions with the Soviet Union, was seemingly abandoned several years ago as the country has been agreeing to more NATO troop deployments, as well as creating a foothold for other NATO projects and activities united by a single goal – to counter alleged "Russian aggression".

    Among these activities is the construction of the Globus III radar, which was largely sponsored by the US military and will work in conjunction with Globus II – another radar created to "collect intelligence data against ballistic missiles". While never officially being recognised as targeted at Russia, both radars were built rather close to the country's borders and hence will be able to serve not only as an early warning system, but also to monitor Moscow's tests of new missiles.

    The Globus radar system in Vardo, northern Norway
    Norwegian Armed Forces
    The Globus radar system in Vardo, northern Norway

    Oslo and Washington signed an agreement in 2018 doubling rotational US troop deployments and scaled it back down only in August 2020, when the White House shifted its posture regarding European deployments. Apart from the boost in the contingent, the US might be seeking an increase in its nuclear submarine fleet stationed in the country. The port of Grøtsund is being reconfigured to host more subs, which can be used to monitor arctic waters – the key path for Russian ships and submarines sailing to the Atlantic.

    Several Norwegian air bases are also being modernised. Many of them host NATO spy planes, such as the "flying radars" AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) and the American P-8 Poseidon. Their flights in the region have long become routine, but they have been increasingly testing the Russian Air Force's readiness, forcing it to scramble jets and intercept NATO spy planes on a daily basis in July and August 2020 because the alliance's spy planes were coming too close to the country's borders.

    War Games and Militarisation of Arctic Region

    Another sign of NATO's increasing activities near the Norwegian-Russian border are regular military drills, such as the massive Trident Juncture war games organised by the alliance in the northern European country in 2018. NATO is organising ever more drills in the Barents and Norwegian seas that sometimes include up to 65 battleships of different classes, including American supercarriers.

    Officially the war games are designed to prepare for an invasion by a "hypothetical" enemy, but the head of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, Morten Haga Lunde was more straightforward in explaining the country's policies. He claimed that Moscow is among the key threats to the nation, citing an alleged strengthening of military bases in the northern parts of Russia and the development of new missiles.

    The Kremlin has repeatedly denied allegations that it poses a threat to European states, who have been citing the alleged threat of "Russian aggression" as a pretext to ramp up military activities since relations between Moscow and the West began to deteriorate in 2014. The Russian Foreign Ministry has also condemned NATO's actions in northern Europe, such as routine military exercises, accusing it of militarising the Arctic region.

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    Tags:
    aggression, NATO aggression, military drills, militarization, Russia, NATO
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