Britain to boost its military presence in the Arctic

A U.K. Marine strike group will be permanently active in the Nordic states, said Defense Minister Ben Wallace.

By Gwladys Fouche, Reuters - March 29, 2022
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British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace walks outside Downing Street in London on March 8, 2022. (Peter Nicholls / Reuters File Photo)

OSLO — Britain plans to increase its military presence in the Arctic, Defense Minister Ben Wallace said on Tuesday, amid increased concerns among NATO allies about Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Britain would commit militarily “to deeper integration, interoperability with countries such as Norway” to protect the seas of the North Atlantic, Wallace told a news conference in Bardufoss, northern Norway.

“We are going to effectively, permanently, have a … Marine strike group permanently … active in the Nordics,” he said, adding the force would likely rotate between Norway, Sweden, Finland and elsewhere in the region.

Wallace was speaking while visiting a NATO exercise in Arctic Norway involving 30,000 troops.

[Arctic security also altered by Russian offensive, NATO chief says, in visit to Cold Response]

The biennial Cold Response exercise has taken on added significance because of the invasion of Ukraine. NATO-member Norway shares a border with Russia in the Arctic.

“Our Arctic strategy commits us to more training and working together,” Wallace said.

“I think we’ll be in the area a lot more. Our ambition is bold and we will make sure that we are there to answer the demand if called upon,” he added.

[NATO, in Arctic training drills, faces up to Putin’s ‘unpredictable’ Russia]

Norwegian Defence Minister Odd Roger Enoksen welcomed the commitment.

“We want more allied activity up north,” Enoksen said.

While tensions in the Arctic region have been low, Norwegian leaders have been concerned that a confrontation between NATO and Russia could spill over in the Arctic, where both sides have increased their military presence in recent years.