Norway does not approve of the deployment of US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bombers in Orland.
For the first time, the US has deployed US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bombers in Norway, local media reported. It goes about four aircraft, their crews and about 200 personnel. The B-1 Lancer aircraft is an American supersonic strategic bomber with a variable sweep wing. It was originally designed to be equipped with nuclear bombs, but is now armed with cruise missiles.
General Jeff Harrigan, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, told CNN that the United States was thus demonstrating its operational readiness and ability to support allies.
Orland airbase is located near the city of Trondheim in the south of Norway, about 1,000 kilometers from the state border of the Russian Federation.
The latest move of the United States received mixed reactions in the government of Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Dagbladet columnist and editor John Olav Egeland, in his article under the headline "This Plan Weakens Norway", indicated that the Norwegian government was moving away from traditional Norwegian policies and putting the country's security in question.
Norway must maintain a balance of its own interests, Egeland wrote, while cooperating with the United States and other NATO countries on the one hand, and maintaining good relations with Russia on the other hand.
"The basic policy that has governed Norway's relations with the Soviet Union and Russia since the times of Einar Gerhardsen (a Norwegian politician, the leader of the Norwegian Workers' Party, served as the Prime Minister of Norway in the 1950s and the 1960s three times. - Ed.), said that not foreign troops should be deployed on Norwegian land in peacetime. Norway should not authorise the deployment of nuclear weapons in peacetime either," Egeland pointed out.
The author of the article claims that there is a trend developing to increase the dependence on the United States and to weaken Norway's "autonomy."
The US military contingent has been stationed on the territory of Norway since 2018 - up to 700 American soldiers on a six-month rotation, and it is expected to increase by another 1,000 troops later in 2021.
In addition, activities in joint exercises has increased as well. In September last year, military exercise were held in the Barents Sea near the Kola Peninsula, "where the Russians have some of their most important naval bases." In August, the 108-meter "Seawolf" submarine arrived to the port of Tromsø. The goal of the mission was to send a signal about US "underwater capabilities" in the Arctic.
According to the Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority, up to 40 nuclear-powered vessels enter Norway each year, primarily from the USA, the UK and France. This is twice as much as a few years ago, Egeland wrote in the article.
Norwegian air, sea and land routes become important areas for military exercises for US forces, and the recent deployment of US bombers in Norway was part of this strategy.
Egeland quotes Lieutenant Colonel and Professor Tormod Heyer, who formulated a threat to Russia at the Forum of the Armed Forces: "Bombers threaten to drive the Russians back into the Stone Age if containment, as NATO calls it, fails."
The journalist warns that the Russians are closely watching the situation while modernizing their own strike forces. They also conduct "more aggressive" exercises and express protests against the growing military activity on the territory of Norway. What NATO calls defensive measures is interpreted by Russia as offensive and threatening.
Egeland concludes that rising tensions in the North were not in Norway's interests.
"Instead of building up its own forces, the tasks of defense have been left to the discretion of the United States and other allies. If this plan is not rejected, it will result in the weakening of Norway's independence and higher risks of being drawn into conflicts between great powers," the author cocnludes.
The Fosna-Folket newspaper published the resolution of the Orland branch of the Rödt (Red) Party:
"American strategic bombers B1-B Lancer will be deployed at Orland airport in February. There is a great apprehension that Norway will become even more involved in the rivalry between Russia and the United States. The B1-B Lancer is a strategic assault aircraft that is of little use for defense in a conventional war. This aircraft can become a target of a pre-emptive strike in an emergency, plus it is easy to fly to both Moscow and Murmansk from there, which increases the risk for Orland to become a target for a nuclear attack.
"The government acts to raise the level of conflict sentiments when it agrees to the deployment of US bombers in Norway. Rödt Orland is demanding that the government stop deploying B1-B Lancer strategic bombers at Orland Central Airport," the statement said.