[Ed. – And you thought Russia and NATO were on the outs. This one’s for all the old maritime Cold Warriors. The Russian ships are research vessels — which, yes, have always been crawling with naval intelligence whenever they go anywhere “interesting.”]
Russian ships docked at what was once a secret Norwegian naval base in the Arctic have prompted concern from the NATO country’s former top military leaders, anxious about its resurgent eastern neighbour roaming nearby.
Norway’s jagged Arctic coastline has regained its strategic importance since tensions between Russia and NATO members have spiked to levels not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The rocky relations have led some to criticise the shutting down of Olavsvern Naval Base, a massive complex burrowed into a mountain near the northern town of Tromsoe, that has been closed since 2009.
Shuttering it was driven by the then seemingly reduced threat from Moscow and its massive Northern Fleet based on Russia’s nearby Kola Peninsula.
“We sold the only base worthy of the name that we had up there. It’s pure madness,” former vice admiral Einar Skorgen, who commanded Norway’s northern forces, told AFP.
Skorgen and other critics say Norway has robbed itself of a crucial foothold in the far north, forcing its submarines to travel hundreds of extra miles from their bases to defend the region.
On top of that, three Russian ships have spent the winter docked deep within the mountain hideaway, once a closely guarded military facility.