As the UK is stepping up its Arctic engagement and tightening partnership with Norway, a new base called Camp Viking will be established in the Nordic nation.
According to the UK’s Royal Navy, which described the development as “necessary for the modern era”, the operations base will lie some 120 kilometers south of the city of Tromso, the largest in the northern part of the country, and host troops of the UK’s Littoral Response Group — a special unit designed to respond to emerging crises in the European theater.
Although the size of the permanently deployed troops to Camp Viking has yet to be announced, this winter, some 1,000 UK commandos were dispatched to the facility to participate in Joint Expeditionary Force and NATO drills. Previously, Camp Viking was described as a focal point for mountain and cold weather warfare training.
In its announcement, Britain praised the bilateral Arctic cooperation that has existed since the Second World War. It was intensified in the Seventies, when Norway and the Svalbard archipelago were recognized as key parts of NATO’s northern flank.
The announcement was made in the wake of the updated UK Arctic Policy Framework announced last month, and follows the Joint Declaration to promote bilateral strategic cooperation between the UK and Norway, signed last year.
Norway, for its part, recently signed a new bilateral defense agreement with the US, indicating its eagerness as a NATO member.
According to the agreement, the US gained the right to unimpeded access to – and use of – four designated military areas in Norway, including Evenes Air Station and Ramsund Naval Base, as well as extensive authority over Norwegian citizens who may come into contact with these areas.
Fittingly, the stated aim for Evenes Air Station – the Norwegian Air Force’s most advanced base designed for its prized F-35 fighter jets and NATO’s preparedness forces – is to boost cooperation between Norwegian, UK, and US maritime surveillance aircraft.
Several Norwegian, UK and US officials admitted that the goal is to keep an eye on Russian submarine and other military activity in the Arctic.
In southern Norway alone, the US has pledged to spend 2 billion NOK ($200Mln) on the Rygge Air Station. The money is expected to be spent on aircraft hangars, ammunition storage and warehouses.
Although the recent moves were praised by Norway’s top brass, including Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram, as a “contribution of NATO’s defense of Norway and Europe at large,” the deals sparked both popular and political opposition. Opponents claimed that the agreement flagrantly defied Norway’s long-standing policy preventing any permanent presence of “foreign powers” on its territory in peacetime. Norwegian and US officials countered such fears by claiming that the arrangement is only temporary.
As a founding member of NATO, Norway has been an active participant in the alliance since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington in 1949. In subsequent decades, it has dutifully provided training and expertise to the bloc and taken part in its overseas missions. In total, around 100,000 Norwegian men and women have taken part in nearly 100 international operations. Apart from military cooperation, Norway also remains the most important supplier of natural gas to the UK, which makes their relation even more special.