As NATO flotilla exercises along North Norwegian coast, Russian vessels lure in nearby waters

Allied warships train in North Norwegian waters. Here “ESPS Alvaro de Bazan” during a Replenishment at Sea with “RFA Tidesurge. (NATO media center)

Exercise Joint Warrior is one of this year’s biggest multinational military exercises in Europe. It is closely monitored by Russia’s Northern Fleet.

Involved in the drills that over the past week has taken place in North Norwegian waters are more than 40 ships and 20 aircraft. Thirteen NATO countries participate, and one of NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups (SNMG1), as well as one of its Standing Mine Countermeasures Groups (SNMCMG1), constitute the backbone for the training.

The exercise includes airborne training, amphibious landings, evacuations and live-firing, NATO representatives inform.

“Its scenario is designed to reflect political tensions in a regionalised conflict, resulting in a build-up of forces from the allied side,” the alliance says.

As the exercise unfolds, there are Russian naval vessels in nearby waters. On Wednesday 22nd of March, the Northern Fleet’s tug Nikolai Chiker sailed southwards off Norway’s Arctic coast

It is not clear whether the powerful salvage tug sails alone or whether it escorts other naval vessels with turned-off responders.

In addition to the Nikolai Chiker, the Russian frigate Admiral Kasatonov is believed to approach the North Atlantic waters. The warship was last week escorted by British Royal Navy vessels as it made it through the English Channel. The escort was subsequently taken over by Dutch and Belgian ships.

According to Russia’s Northern Fleet, the Admiral Kasatonov is heading towards Northeast Atlantic waters where it is to conduct a series of drills before returning to its home port of Severomorsk, Kola Peninsula.

Both the Nikolai Chiker and Admiral Kasatonov might be part of the exercise that was kicked off by the Northern Fleet last week. The drills include about 20 warships and support vessels, as well as five aircraft and 50 other military special equipment units.

It is likely that the Russian exercise comes as a response to the allied Joint Warrior.

Weather conditions in the area have been difficult.

But it does not bother Rear Admiral Thorsten Marx, the Commander of the SNMG1.

“The climatic conditions of an exercise in northern Norway in spring always poses a special challenge. The special feature of NATO‘s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is to demonstrate operational capability even under these adverse conditions,” he underlines.

The Joint Warrior is one of three allied exercises that take place in the Nordic region this month. While the Joint Warrior takes place at sea, the Joint Viking includes warfare training on land. The exercise Arctic Forge takes place in Lapland, northern Finland.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:Int’l arctic cooperation needs to continue despite rupture with Russia: Canada’s GG,The Canadian Press

FinlandRussian cyber attacks, espionage pose growing threat to Finnish national security, Yle news

Greenland: Growing focus on Arctic puts Greenland at higher risk of cyber attacks: assessment, Eye on the Arctic

IcelandNordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: “It’s about time” U.S. ambassador to Norway says of Sweden, Finland’s NATO bids, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Moscow lowers ambitions in nuclear icebreaker program, The Independent Barents Obs

Sweden: NATO talks between Finland, Sweden and Turkey on right path, says Secretary-General, Eye on the Arctic

United States: U.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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