NATO members and partners have embarked on a series of major military exercises in Norway involving as many as 30,000 troops.
A NATO press statement on Monday said the drills, called Cold Response 2022, encompass military maneuvers in “harsh climatic conditions” and will draw in forces from twenty-seven nations, including NATO partners Finland and Sweden. Cold Response 2022 will involve 220 aircraft and over fifty vessels. NATO has clarified that the drills, which will last through April 1, will consist of air, sea, and ground components.
The United States has dispatched a contingent of several thousand U.S. Marines and sailors to take part in the drills. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced last week that the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force will be the largest American military unit participating in this year’s installment of Cold Response. Kirby added that the drills will include activities ranging from “the reception of reinforcements and interoperable command and control to Combined Joint Operations in a highly intense combat environment.” The exercises began on Monday with naval operations and land deployments of NATO’s rapid reaction force.
Lt. Gen. Yngve Odlo, Chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters (NJHQ), told High North News last week that the NJHQ maintains an active military communications channel with the Russian Northern Fleet to avoid any potential incidents. “We do not have a set structure of meetings, however, we use this communication channel to discuss unwanted incidents. It is a strictly military channel in order to ensure that we operate safely,” he said. Odlo added that Russian observers declined an invitation to attend the exercise for purposes of transparency. “Any build-up of NATO military capabilities near Russia’s borders does not help to strengthen security in the region,” said Russia’s embassy in Norway, according to Al Jazeera. Odlo suggested that the war in Ukraine may have prompted some “minor adjustments” to the exercise, but did not elaborate on those changes.
Cold Response 2022 is reportedly Norway’s largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War. The NATO statement stressed that the exercises are “long-planned” and unrelated to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. “This year’s exercise was announced over eight months ago. It is not linked to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, which NATO is responding to with preventive, proportionate, and non-escalatory measures,” read an earlier NATO announcement. But the large-scale drills could nonetheless contribute to the spiraling military tensions between Russia and the west at a dangerous moment for Europe and the world.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.