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"NATO's ears in the north"

Ingeborg Breines
Ingeborg Breines
Breines is an adviser, former President of the International PEACE Bureau and former UNESCO Director.
CHRONICLE / The American bases are a huge power factor that enables the US military hegemony in the world. Our geographical location should indicate a less provocative approach.


War rhetoric and war preparations take the night's sleep. Fear and powerlessness paralyze. The world's largest military power, NATO, is provocative and irreconcilable, not least in relation to Russia and China. Tensions with Russia have increased through the construction of military capabilities and bases near the Russian border, through war rhetoric, sanctions and other intimidating and isolating initiatives.

Enemy images of Russia are created and Russian leaders are demonized. The country is being blamed for almost everything that is wrong in the world. Right now we are to be feared that Russia is preparing an attack on Ukraine. Western media almost exclusively convey information about Russia's major military build-up near Ukraines border, though on its own soil, while the large amounts of Western military equipment and forces established towards Russia's borders, not least in Eastern Europe, and the US nuclear stockpiles in five countries in Europe, are barely mentioned.

The military billions

The US / NATO currently has 15 times as large a military budget as Russia, according to SIPRI. If all 30 NATO countries increase their military spending to 2% of GDP, as written off, this asymmetry will be even greater. Without a hint of understanding of Russia's security needs and of the importance of promoting common security, with peace from Vancouver to Vladivostok, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expresses his pride in NATO's increase in strength in Eastern Europe and states that We want to help Ukraine reach NATO membership. Nor is there any thought from there that the military billions should instead be used for health measures and welfare in these pandemic times. It is gratifying, however, that Ukraine's President Zelensky suddenly calls for an end to the escalation of the war and expresses that he does not fear an attack from the east, but considers the internal contradictions in Ukraine as the biggest challenge. The very best reconciliation experts of the UN, Europe and the peace movement should be involved immediately.

The idealization of the United States in the Norwegian public is, if possible, even stronger than the demonization of Russia.

Recent increases militarization of Norway is significant, with the establishment of foreign military bases in Trøndelag and in northern Norway; massive pre-storage of American heavy military equipment in Trøndelag; facilitation of ports for visits by nuclear submarines in Bergen and Tromsø; increasing and streamlined intelligence activities, including the radar Globus III in Vardø and the new spy ship Marjatta, as well as ever larger military exercises ever closer to the border with Russia. Cold Response, with around 40 soldiers, will start its war exercises in March, unless our government cancels / postpones due to the tense situation and due to the pandemic. Little Norway, with our abnormal military consumption, is a medium-sized superpower in the NATO context and an advanced player in this field, not least as "NATO's ears in the north".

However, it is unclear what is NATO and what is the United States. Since it is obvious where the power lies, it is perhaps not so interesting whether it is "only" about the United States or a US-dominated NATO? Or maybe it is still important, political, practical, legal? Et alliance-adapted defense is another word for American addiction, says Tormod Hejer, FFI (Armed Forces Research Institute). Bård Wormdal's books: Spybase, the unknown history of the CIA and NSA in Norway, og The Satellite War, Norway's militarization of the polar regions and space are both enlightening in the context. It's time for a real debate about what is security and what makes us safe today! Time to get rid of the belief that military strength brings peace and prosperity! Is it not time to ask what NATO's military structure is really good for?

Ultimate American right of way

On 16.04.21, the Solberg government signed an agreement with the United States on four new ones military bases, so-called «agreed areas», but with ultimate American right of disposal, on Evenes, Ramsund, Rygge and Sola. The matter will be presented to the Storting this spring. If the Storting and the Støre government do not stop the draft «Supplementary agreement between Norway and the USA on defense co-operation», we are faced with a frightening scenario.

The possible Norwegian bases will be part of a worldwide network of nearly 1000 US military bases, according to the American peace organization World beyond War – in over 80 countries and on all continents. The number of bases depends on whether the listening stations are included or not. In comparison, Russia will have eight such bases and China one. More than 170 American soldiers are to be stationed, most of them on rotation, it is said, as if it had something to say. The bases especially circle Russia and China. Bases in Norway are probably considered extra important since they come close to Russia's military installations in the Arctic.

Think for a moment what it would mean if Russia and China established bases on the US border. No one has forgotten the Cuba crisis, when the Soviet Union stepped up its military cooperation with Cuba and the world trembled in fear over a possible nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The American bases are a huge power factor that enables the US military hegemony in the world. The bases increase international tension and the danger of war – and also contribute to environmental disasters. Closing the bases would help reduce tensions, improve the climate, free up important agricultural land and make the United States less threatening. This would mean less violence and rape in the surrounding areas, less damaged and polluted land, less danger to health, as among others International Women's Network against Militarization I see.

Many question the legality of a change in our base policy. When Norwegian membership in NATO became a reality in 1949, Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen tried to reassure the Soviet Union that "the Norwegian government will not accede to any agreement with other states that entails obligations for Norway to open bases for foreign powers' forces on Norwegian territory, so as long as Norway is not attacked or exposed to threats of attack. " Gerhardsen confirmed the Base Declaration of 1949 at the NATO meeting in Paris in 1957 and added that no nuclear weapons will be stored in Norway in peacetime. Prime Minister Trygve Bratteli specified in the so-called Bratteli doctrine on the prohibition of nuclear weapons on Norwegian soil from October 1975 that: "Our precondition for the arrival of foreign warships has been and is that nuclear weapons are not carried on board."

The base establishment

The idealization of the United States in the Norwegian public is, if possible, even stronger than the demonization of Russia. It can have tragic consequences. The big question now is whether Norway will really relinquish sovereignty in four places in the country in naive confidence that Norway and the United States have common interests? Such vital questions for the country should be subject to referendums, right?

The recent round of consultations on the establishment of bases shows that there is great opposition, also among former top politicians and the military. The Facebook group "No to American bases on Norwegian soil", established by Ivar Johansen, is gaining increasing support. Former Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Torbjørn jagland, expresses concern that such an agreement would override the ban on the death penalty, torture, inhuman treatment and forced labor. In an article in Klassekampen 12.01.22, Yuhan Shanmugaratnam addresses a similar concern and points out that the Guantánamo prison camp was "handy" located outside American jurisdiction and that the Americans could thereby allow themselves behavior they could not at home. Is it really possible that we will put ourselves in a situation where we will be able to get both torture chambers and nuclear weapons on Evenes, Ramsund, Rygge and Sola?

Jagland expresses concern that such an agreement will override the ban on the death penalty, torture, inhuman treatment and forced labor.

Letting the Americans close to Russia and lifting Norwegian base and exercise restrictions does not have a calming effect on Moscow. Norway, as a small country in the world, is in a clearly asymmetrical relationship with both Russia and the United States. Being in a possible front line between two great powers is a very vulnerable position. For those who in their hubris are prepared to "let Finmark go", it is incredibly narrow-minded and naive to believe that a major conflict in the north will stay north of the Arctic Circle. Both the United States and Russia will be able to benefit from using Norwegian territory in the event of a confrontation. Of course, none of them want war to be waged on their own territory, let alone with the weapons available today. It is therefore in Norway's interest not to put itself in such a situation.

Our political room for maneuver

It is also not to our advantage that a former Norwegian prime minister is in the NATO convention. Stoltenbergs ties to our own government provide uncertainty. Even those of us who have a relatively large dose of confidence in Støre's ingenuity and insight into international issues do not quite know whether he will be able to withstand the pressure, or whether we risk a Libyan-like situation again, where we «protest for the whole world, but follow on the journey », and well so be it. The "terrible" will be even closer this time, with potentially even greater scope. It is to be hoped that our Prime Minister will show as much courage as he did by facilitating the difficult, but absolutely necessary, dialogue with the Taliban.

Hopefully, our new governing powers will also realize the great danger they would put Norway in by giving a great power an even stronger foothold. The United States is in a highly unstable situation and is collapsing on the democracy rankings. We can not let "anyone's" desire for profit and power surpass logic and common sense.

Our geographical location should indicate a less provocative approach. Less deterrence and more cooperation. We must make ourselves less dependent on the United States, ask them to stay in their own territory, and increase our political room for maneuver. We must recognize the importance of building trust and good neighborliness, not least by strengthening and actively using the Arctic Council and the OSCE – as well as revitalizing Barents cooperation. Støre may also be able to get the old vision of a nuclear-weapon-free Arctic back on the drawing board, now that Russia invites demilitarization on both sides of the east-west border!

Growing inequality, the nuclear threat and climate and natural disasters are among the biggest threats today. Arms races and militarism reinforce this image and create enormous environmental and natural destruction, in military exercises, at military bases, in military industry and test areas around the world, and most of all in war. US bases in Norway will contribute to more military activity and will increase our CO2 emissions. It will not look good on our organic accounts, if it were to be included.

Ethics of responsibility

Author Arne R. Pettersen, recently expressed how "America's invading war machine" has raised our "existential seriousness". This seriousness currently feels heavy for many. Pettersen refers to the German-American philosopher Hans Jonas, who writes about the ethics of responsibility. It means that we, you and I, also contribute through knowledge and empathy to "taking power over powerlessness", and try to do our part to prevent that which is valuable to us from being destroyed. Our future depends on our choices. They should not be based on military logic, but on a culture of peace.

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