Oslo, Norway | Mon, March 14, 2022
As tensions between the West and Russia over the Ukraine war rise, major military drills involving 30,000 NATO troops and partner countries began in Norway on Monday. Cold Response 2022 seeks to test how Norway would manage Allied reinforcements on its soil, in accordance with Article 5 of NATO’s charter, which mandates member states to come to the assistance of another member state under assault. It was planned long before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. “It’s a defense exercise,” said Cold Response commander General Yngve Odlo.
“It’s not an offensive military action,” he said on television channel TV2. The naval, air, and ground drills are held every two years over wide swaths of Norway’s territory, including above the Arctic Circle. They will, however, remain several hundred kilometers (miles) from Norway’s Russian border. Norway invited Russia to send observers, but Russia declined. Last week, Russia’s ambassador in Norway warned AFP that “any build-up of NATO military forces near Russia’s borders does not assist to strengthen security in the region.” Odlo stated that Russia “has the capacity out there to follow (the exercise) in a completely legitimate manner.”
“I sincerely hope they follow through on current commitments,” he continued. Cold Response will include neighbouring Sweden and Finland, which are military non-aligned but becoming increasingly close NATO partners, as it has in prior iterations. The invasion of Russia has reignited debate in the two Nordic countries over NATO membership. The manoeuvres, which will go until April 1, will involve 200 planes and 50 vessels. The drill started on Monday with naval operations and the deployment of a portion of NATO’s fast response force on land.
On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over his nation or face Russian attacks on NATO member states. “It’s only a matter of time before Russian rockets fall on your land, on NATO territory,” he warned in a video message posted shortly after midnight. He spoke a day after Russian troops began air strikes on a military training area in Lviv, Ukraine’s western capital, close the NATO member Poland, killing 35 people and injuring more than 130 others.