​NATO to stage ‘relevant’ anti-submarine exercise off Norway

Norwegian Alta-class minesweeper Rauma (Photo from wikipedia.org)
Norway has welcomed massive NATO anti-submarine drills off its coast due to begin next week, noting the “relevance of such an exercise” in the wake of recent Finland’s and Sweden’s vain hunts for alleged foreign subs suspected to be Russian.

More than 10 military vessels as well as helicopters and up to 5,000 NATO troops will be taking part in the exercise dubbed the “Dynamic Mongoose” between May 4-13, the country's military has announced.

“Norway is dependent on NATO. It is, therefore, important that NATO will come to us to practice and train. This gives us the opportunity to practice with our closest allies,” Commodore Ole Morten Sandquist, chief of the Norwegian Navy's combat force, was quoted as saying.

Norway believes that its underwater topography is ideal to practice tracking down enemy submarines. “Norway is an attractive place to train and practice for foreign forces… it is important for Norway that NATO is good for anti-submarine operations in our region,” Sandquist said.

Earlier this week, the Finnish military claimed it detected an identified foreign submarine in waters near the capital Helsinki and used hand-held underwater depth charges to “let the target know that it has been noticed.”

READ MORE: Finland chases off suspected foreign sub with depth charges

Last October, Finland's neighbor Sweden scrambled over 200 troops, helicopters and ships on a week-long search for a suspected Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago, which months later was confirmed to be a civilian workboat.

"There is no link between the exercise, planned for a long time, and what happened in Sweden and Finland," a spokesman for the Norwegian army, Brynjar Stordal, told AFP. He however emphasized that the these incidents with non-NATO members further demonstrate the “relevance of such an exercise.”

Oslo’s announcement comes weeks after the defense ministries of five Nordic countries announced expansion of military cooperation in order to meet alleged Russian threat. The cooperation, according to the ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, would entail increasing the amount of joint exercises, intelligence sharing and increased cooperation in defense matters. The ministers also stressed the need for closer cooperation with the Baltic states.

READ MORE: Sweden confirms mystery ‘Russian sub’…was in fact a workboat

Moscow is not opposed to the countries boosting their security and defense, saying it is “undoubtedly a sovereign right of every state.” However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry recently noted that instead of looking for open and constructive dialogue Moscow sees their decision as a threat aimed against the Northern European military cooperation is now “positioning itself against Russia.”

Tensions between Russia and its Nordic neighbors have been increasing in recent months. In late March, Sweden said it detected four Russian fighter jets in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. Russia has increased the number of its flights in the Baltic in recent years as a response to NATO’s expansion to the east and the inclusion of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania into the alliance.