A US Navy helicopter during Trident Juncture 18 NATO maneuvers off Norway. Near Trondheim, October 29, 2018
Byneset (Norway) (AFP) – Russia says it wants to test missiles this week off Norway in an area where NATO is carrying out giant military maneuvers, a move that illustrates tensions in the far north.
“We received notification last week of Russian offshore missile testing projects here,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Tuesday in western Norway where Trident Juncture is taking place 18.
This exercise, the largest the Atlantic Alliance has organized since the Cold War, aims to test its ability to rescue one of its members assaulted by another state.
Mobilizing some 50,000 soldiers, 65 ships and 250 aircraft from 31 countries several hundred kilometers from the Russian-Norwegian border in the Arctic, these maneuvers irritate Moscow, which had promised a “riposte” in advance.
“Despite rather clumsy attempts by Alliance and member-state representatives to present this military activity as defensive, it is clear that this show of force is clearly anti-Russian in nature,” the diplomat said. Russian.
The Russian army announced last week the deployment of four ships in the North Atlantic for maneuvers.
“Russia has significant naval forces in this area,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday. “I expect Russia to behave professionally”.
– NATO deactivates –
The NATO boss, however, sought to play down the situation.
“We will of course closely monitor what Russia is doing, but they are operating in international waters and they have notified us in a normal way.”
According to Avinor, the public agency in charge of Norwegian airports, Russia has sent a message to aircrews (Notam) to inform them of the planned fire from 1 to 3 November in the Norwegian Sea.
The area and dates overlap with those of Trident Juncture, which runs from October 25 to November 7.
An Avinor spokesman, Erik Lødding, said that such notifications in the exercise zone was “not very common”, but that a Notam in itself “is not dramatic” .
“This will not change our plans,” assured Mr Stoltenberg.
It is with this backdrop that the two sides will meet on Wednesday in Brussels as part of the NATO-Russia Council.
“When the relationship between Russia and NATO is difficult, it is particularly important to have a dialogue,” said Stoltenberg.
Norway is also playing the card of appeasement.
“It would be risking escalation to let us get irritated,” Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters. The Russians “respect the rules and they can train as they wish”.
– “New Cold War” ‘-
But the specialists of international relations hear it in another ear.
“It is quite clear that what some people call” the new Cold War “transplanted in the North in a way that few anticipated after the crisis in Ukraine in 2014”, decrypts for AFP Julie Wilhelmsen, expert from Russia to the Norwegian Institute of International Relations (Nupi).
“Four years later, we see that interactions between states in this area are trapped in an escalation of tensions between NATO and Russia,” she said.
If it is offended, Russia is also spreading its military power. In September, she led the greatest maneuvers in her history, Vostok-2018, with officially nearly 300,000 soldiers in Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East.
“Today, and especially since 2014, the Kremlin is obsessed with what it calls Russia’s” encirclement “, that NATO is increasingly approaching Russian borders, which is perceived as offensive, “says Wilhelmsen.
“In its neighborhood, Russia will not give up what it sees as its right to defend its security interests,” she says.
Adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Research based in Paris, François Heisbourg questioned the relevance of Russian interference in Trident Juncture.
“The Kremlin is doing its best to prove to the Nordic countries that the Russian threat is not a view of the Western mind,” he said on Twitter.