NATO member shadows Russian nuclear-powered cruiser as 30,000 troops amass in Arctic

Johnson says 'no way' Ukraine will join NATO 'any time soon'

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The Forsvaret, or the Norwegian Armed Forces, announced its coastguard vessel Nordkapp from its coast guard, the Kystvakten, has followed a Russian battlecruiser for several days. Russia’s Peter the Great is near the Smutthavet, or the Loophole Sea, and is nuclear-powered.

In a social medal post, the Forsvaret said Russia’s ship is sailing legally in international waters, and added “this type of activity is not uncommon”.

Forsvaret also added in a statement on their website: “It is natural that Norway monitors Russian military activity in our immediate areas.

“For the Coast Guard, it is routine to follow what is happening in Norwegian maritime areas of interest.

“The Russian naval vessel sails legally in international waters and this type of activity is not uncommon, especially in connection with major Norwegian and allied military exercises such as the ongoing Cold Response 2022.

“A professional and respectful tone and behaviour are shown from all sides, which contributes to predictability and stability in the High North.”

Hans Kristensen, Director at the Nuclear Information Project, suggested on Twitter the Norwegian response is “presumably part of Russian monitoring of NATO exercise Cold Response underway in region”.

Russia’s fleet of ballistic missile submarines, armed with nuclear warheads that can reach North American territories, are based in Gadziyevo on the coast to the Barents Sea, some 100 kilometres from the border to Norway.

It comes as NATO and partner forces commenced their military exercise Cold Response 2022 in the Arctic.

NATO has said the “long-planned exercise” brings together “thousands of troops from NATO Allies and partners, testing their ability to work together in cold weather conditions across Norway”.

Around 30,000 troops from 27 countries from Europe and North America will take part in training in “cold weather exercises – on land, in the air and at sea” over March and April.

As a part of the drill, Norway was also required to invite all 57 member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), including Russia, to observe the exercise.

Norway hosts the military exercise biannually, and was a founding member of NATO in August 24 1949.

After declining the invitation, the Russian Embassy in Norway told French news agency AFP “any buildup of NATO military capabilities near Russia’s borders does not help to strengthen security in the region”.

Fabrice Pothier, strategy officer and CEO of policy group Rasmussen Global, told outlet DW Russia’s views on NATO drills are a part of Moscow’s playbook.

He said: “Russia will pretend to feel threatened with these drills and call it a buildup of troops along its border with Norway.

“But NATO is allowed to hold drills to strengthen its troops and there is nothing threatening about that.”

Ivana Stradner, an advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also told DW the Cold Response 2022 could help strengthen NATO.

She said: “Some argue that this exercise is dangerous because Russia can misconstrue it.

“However, launching this exercise is a step in the right direction because we should not allow Putin to dictate NATO’s security and cancelling this exercise would show NATO’s weakness.”

She then noted while Vladimir Putin perceives NATO and its drills as a threat, it shouldn’t mitigate NATO’s vigilance.

Ms Stradner said: “Russia constantly claims to be threatened by NATO but this is a purely defensive alliance that does not seek to [encroach upon] Russian territory.

“We can expect Putin to find NATO’s weak link in order to show that the alliance is a paper tiger. So NATO has to be ready to respond.”

It comes after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Russia’s potential use of chemical weapons would be a “blatant” violation of international law.

He said on NBC News: “Any use of chemical weapons would be a blatant and brutal violation of international law, there is a ban on chemical weapons.

“At the same time, we know Russia has used chemical agents in Europe before against their own political opponents, and Russia has been facilitating the Assad regime in Syria where chemical weapons have been used.

“This is something we take extremely seriously, but at the same time we are very much aware that we need to act in a way that prevents this conflict from going from being an ugly, horrific conflict in Ukraine to something that turns out to be a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia in Europe.”

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