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Russia to hold military exercises near Norway

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Russia to hold military exercises near Norway

Photo: Thomas Nilsen

For the next two days, Russia is set to conduct artillery firing exercises in the Varangerfjord area, the maritime boundary between Russia and Norway.

The Varangerfjord lies only eight kilometers from the Norwegian border town of Grense Jakobselv. Consequently, this will likely be perceived by NATO as a sign of Russian escalation in the Arctic amidst the war with Ukraine. Russia’s exercises are likely partly in response to NATO’s own largest exercises since the Cold War.

NATO’s preceding Steadfast Defender 24 drill involved 90,000 soldiers over the course of several months. The sheer scale of NATO’s military drills in the region demonstrate the alliance’s commitment to defending all members. In response, Russia will likely show its readiness to retaliate, as demonstrated by its latest military exercises, thus exacerbating tensions in the area.

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However, it is unlikely that any large-scale offensives will be launched in the Arctic from either side. Despite NATO’s growing power, especially with the recent entry of Sweden and Finland, Russia’s bases in the Arctic still outnumber NATO’s by about a third. Given Russia’s strong military position, NATO is not likely to start a confrontation in the region. Similarly, if Russia were to attack NATO, it would likely go through other routes. Russia is focused on strengthening its strategic position in the Arctic, and will likely take more of a defensive posture in the region, continuing to protect the Northern Sea Route and preventing NATO from accessing the Russian Arctic.

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