Norway maintains an observation post in the far northeast corner of its homeland. The lookout is located 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle where Russian activities can be observed round the clock.
The border post OP 247, offers a commanding view of the starkly beautiful area.
To the East, on the other side of the border, is a Russian observation post and a coast guard facility.
Directly ahead is the small Norwegian island of Vardo, which houses a United States funded military surveillance radar system.
Why does America care? Because the Russians are rebuilding its Northern Fleet, building new submarines.
Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told a National Public Radio reporter that the Russians are flying more; they are exercising more in the northwest of Russia with their battalions.
Major Brynjar Stordal, a spokesman for the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, said “Out on the Kola Peninsula … you’ll see that they’re modernizing and rebuilding and also building new facilities. There’s a lot more activity and more new equipment. And we also see that the tactics are becoming more advanced.”
The heavily militarized Kola Peninsula is also a base for the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet, said Thomas Nilsen, a Barents Observer online journalist.
He reports that the Kola Peninsula is the home of nuclear-powered submarines. He said that it is also a training area for Russia’s new weapons such as nuclear-powered cruise missiles and the nuclear-powered underwater drone.
Nilsen said Russia’s build-up is due in part to its deteriorated trust with the west and to protecting military assets in the High North, including its natural resources. Ninety percent of Russia’s natural gas exports come from Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic.
The Russian government has long expressed concerns about NATO’s expansion near its borders.
In June 2018, the Russian Embassy in Oslo complained that a Norwegian request for more U.S. troops “could cause growing tensions, triggering an arms race and destabilizing the situation in northern Europe.”
Still, the extent of Moscow’s aggression in the region has taken Western nations by surprise. In the years after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. and NATO shuttered Arctic bases and moved weaponry and other assets out of the region. The Arctic region was peaceful, as Russia stopped being a concern, but that changed in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea.
“The operation in the Ukraine was kind of a game-changer for NATO and for us. The security situation in the world has definitely changed; we are more or less back where we were before the fall of the (Berlin) wall,” Joern Erik Berntsen commander of Norway’s Finnmark Land Defense, said.
After Russia’s actions in Crimea, Norway needed to reexamine its security situation. It went on a buying spree, acquiring submarines from Germany and dozens of F-35 fighter jets from the United States.
The Cold War has been replaced with concerns about the darkly frozen region far above the Arctic Circle. Norway demonstrates that it is America’s friend, but we need to keep our eyes on Russia, along with the sharp-eyed Norwegians.
And what is Russia doing to meddle in America’s 2020 presidential election? Are they trying to control our nation’s highly valued democracy, again?