Russia keeps close eyes on Nordic Response as NATO expands in the north

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Nordic Response 2024:

Nordic Response is the Arctic arm of NATO’s record-breaking exercise Steadfast Defender in northern Europe.
Takes place between March 3-14 with most activities from Ofoten to Finnmark and the sea areas outside northern Norway.
20,000 soldiers, 50 warships, submarines and support vessels. 110 military aircraft.

The Defense Ministry in Moscow informs that two Tu-142 long-range anti-submarine aircraft flew mission over the Norwegian Sea. For Russia, monitoring the ongoing Norwegian-led winter exercise is part of the armed forces’s increased readiness.

The Northern Fleet has several of its frigates and anti-submarine ships positioned in the Barents Sea. Last week the Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Kasatonov sailed out from Severomorsk. This week, the Admiral Levchenko went to sea.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko comments were predictable, as he called the exercise “demonstrative and provocative.”

“All necessary measures” have been taken by Russia Grushkov said without elaborating. 

According to a longer article in state-controlled Izvestia newspaper, Russia is especially keeping its eyes open for enemy submarines in the Barents Sea. In addition to the larger Tu-142 that flew over the Norwegian Sea on Monday, there are several Ka-27 helicopters and Il-38 anti-sub aircraft in the skies above the training areas of the Northern Fleet. 

The coast of the Kola Peninsula is home to the fleet of ballistic missile submarines patrolling with the Kremlin’s deterrence forces. Ports north of Murmansk are equally important for the multi-purpose subs hunting for NATO ballistic missiles subs sailing the North Atlantic. 

Gaining control of the strategically important waters off the coast of northern Norway and northern Russia would in case of global conflict be of key importance. 

Unlike when NATO had its 2018 exercise Trident Juncture, the Russian Northern Fleet has so far during Nordic Response not issued any NOTAM warnings for own exercises outside the coast of Norway.

 

A Russian military Iluchin-38 exercising with the Northern Fleet’s ship “Altay” and FSB border guard ship “Zapolariye” in Russia’s maritime border areas with Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

 

Admiral Sergei Avakyants is former commander of the Northern Fleet’s missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov and later commander of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. He said to Izvestia that the Nordic Response and Steadfast Defender 2024 “in general are very different in nature from the previous [NATO exercises].”

Avakyants claims the exercises are “openly declaring practicing of carrying out strikes on our territory. In fact, the next ‘Barbarossa’ plan is being worked out,” the Admiral says and adds:

“This is a clear threat.”

Operation Barbarossa was the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in June 1941.

B-52 and B-1

 As Sweden is a few days away from being an equal NATO member, the country participates fully in Nordic Response. On Wednesday, U.S. bombers flew missions across the country and crossed the Arctic Circle.  

Two U.S. Air Force strategic bombers B-52 and B-1 flew above the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden on March 6. Screenshot from FlightRadar24.com

 

On March 7 and 8, Swedish and Finnish army forces will cross the border into Norway’s Finnmark region as part of the exercise scenario in Nordic Response of reinforcement of the northern coastline to the Barents Sea. 

President visits Finnmark 

Alexander Stubb, Finland’s newly elected President, will have his first official visit abroad to Alta in Norway on Thursday.  One-fifth of all 20,000 soldiers from the 13 countries participating in Nordic Response are Finnish. 

During the visit, President Stubb together with Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre will follow the exercises in the field in the Alta area and discuss with troops taking part in the various exercises.