Drone flights prompt Norway to raise military alert to highest post-war level – The Irish Times



Norway has raised its military readiness to its highest post-war level, citing an “increasingly serious political security situation” in northern Europe.

Amid growing security concerns in the Nordic countries, the supreme commander of the Swedish armed forces said on Tuesday that he was open to the installation of nuclear weapons on Swedish territory.

The changes came as a new section of an undersea gas pipeline between Norway and Poland was fully operational, part of a plan to end reliance on Russian gas.

In recent weeks, Norway and Sweden have noted an increase in drone flights, which they attribute to “foreign intelligence”, around nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructure.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has said the country is increasing its level of preparedness in general due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, although Norway says it has no imminent concerns about a move from Moscow.

“There is no reason to expect Russia to directly involve Norway in the war, but we need to be more vigilant,” he said. “But increased tension means we are more exposed to threats, intelligence and influence, which forces all NATO countries to be more vigilant, including Norway.”

Norway shares a 200 km border with Russia, and since February Oslo has increased its military spending as well as its state of readiness.

Recent weeks have seen the Norwegian Navy increase its patrols in the Baltic Sea, while its Home Guard has increased its presence and surveillance of critical infrastructure.

Several Russians have been arrested in recent weeks for drone flights in Norway and for taking pictures in restricted areas – including a man believed by Norwegian counterintelligence to be a member of Russian GRU military intelligence.

Norway’s newest piece of critical infrastructure, the Baltic Pipe, became fully operational on Tuesday after problems following the Oct. 1 launch.

The new section of Baltic Pipe, a joint project between Denmark’s Energinet and Poland’s Gaz-System, is a 275 km pipeline between Denmark and Poland as well as 230 km of Polish domestic pipeline.

Since Tuesday, Norwegian gas is now flowing directly to Poland, with a total annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters which is expected to start from November.

Amid growing security concerns in the Nordic countries, the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Bydén, has said he has no objection to the stationing of nuclear weapons on Swedish territory.

“This is a very serious security political situation,” General Bydén said. “It’s a general recommendation not to start the NATO process with closures, we should enter NATO as open as possible.”

The debate over a nuclear deterrent on Swedish soil, previously taboo, has grown since Sweden applied to join NATO alongside Finland. The new centre-right government in Stockholm is now stepping up its diplomatic efforts to win Turkey’s support for membership.

Sweden’s new prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, will visit Ankara next week, which continues to defy blocking membership bids from Finland and Sweden.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that in return for supporting membership, Sweden and Finland extradite suspects Turkey considers terrorists.

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