Mon Mar 9, 2015 11:1AM
Norwegian soldiers participate in a winter military exercise. (File photo)
Norwegian soldiers participate in a winter military exercise. (File photo)

Norway has started massive military exercises, involving 5,000 servicemen, in the northern parts of the country near the border with Russia, the largest such drills in nearly 50 years.

The country’s military launched drills dubbed “Joint Viking” on Monday in the northern regions of Lakselv and Alta in the Finnmark County, which border Russia’s Murmansk region.

The exercises will include the Norwegian army, navy, air force and civil defense troops (Heimevernet).

Aleksander Jankov, a spokesman for the Norwegian Armed Forces, said 400 military vehicles and all types of weapons will be used in the drills, which are the largest to take place in the region since 1967.

According to Norwegian media, the massive exercise is to show that Norway has the ability to defend Finnmark.

Prior to the kickoff army spokesman Vegar Gystad said, “If we’re to have a credible defense that can defend the entire country, we also have to train in the entire country.”

The war games come amid tensions between the West and Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

Norway, a member of the Western military alliance NATO, suspended all military cooperation with Russia after the Black Sea Peninsula Crimea voted to break away from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation in March, 2014.  

Meanwhile, NATO plans to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine and has held numerous war games over the past year. In 2014, NATO forces held some 200 military exercises, with the alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg having promised that such drills would continue.

In addition, the defense ministers of NATO’s 28 member states agreed on February 5 to establish six new command and control posts in the Eastern European nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

Moscow has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup toward its borders.

 CAH/KA