The Norwegain government cancels this year’s allied exercises in Troms

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The Norwegian Government has decided to cancel this year’s cold weather exercises in Indre Troms in light of the COVID-situation in Norway.

-Norway, along with the rest of world, is faced with a challenging situation. The restrictions in place in Nordre-Follo and the municipalities surrounding it, are the most severe since the start of the Covid-pandemic. We must be one step ahead to try to avoid the spread of the mutated, and more contagious variant of the virus.  We have weighed the arguments and our decision has been to cancel the planned allied exercise activity in Troms, says Minister of Defence, Frank Bakke-Jensen.  

The decision entails cancelling both Excercise Rein I and Joint Viking, exercises that were to include allied participation from several countries in addition to Norwegian troops. There will be a halt in the arrival of new allied forces to Indre Troms. For those forces already in place, there will be a controlled and well-planned departure.

- How the troops who are already here and conducting cold weather training will return to their respective countries will be planned and organized in dialogue with our allies and the Norwegian Armed Forces. Their return will also be in accordance with measures that adhere to infection control. We are now planning how to execute this and we will have to outline the details of allied returns at a later time, says the Minister of Defence.

The Norwegian Armed Forces will accommodate tailored winter-training where possible and in adherence with proper infection prevention measures until the various departure dates.

Allied soldiers return home due to the corona pandemic
Allied soldiers return home due to the corona pandemic Credit: Norwegian Army

This winter, approximately 3 400 soldiers were scheduled to conduct cold weather training in Indre Troms. Up until now, approximately 2 900 allied troops have arrived in Indre Troms to train. Of these 2 900, about 1000 are from the United States, short of a 1000 are from the United Kingdom, around 600 from the Netherlands and about 200 from Germany.

-Allied training and exercises in Norway during winter-conditions is important both for Norway and our allies, and are important contributions to our security within NATO. In order for allied forces to reinforce the defence of NATO’s northern part, they need to have the knowledge to operate there. For this reason, Norwegian and allied troops also need to train and exercise in this area in peacetime. This year’s cancellation comes in addition to last year’s major exercise, Cold Response 20, which was significantly reduced in size due to strict preventative Covid-19 measures. I want to thank all our allies who have shown great flexibility and understanding in a challenging situation. I also want to thank local authorities, the health services and the Norwegian Armed Forces. Everyone has done an incredible job to handle this demanding situation in the best possible way, says the Defence Minister.

Bitiske og amerikanske soldater må returnere hjem.
Bitiske og amerikanske soldater må returnere hjem. Credit: Forsvaret

The Norwegian Armed Forces has a large footprint in Indre Troms, and besides maintaining operational readiness their current main concern is to contribute to stop the spread of the mutated virus and to prevent it from making its way into the region. The Armed Forces have therefore introduced restrictive measures on personnel coming from red zones in South-Eastern Norway. This entails a halt in the drafting of new recruits from these municipalities for the time being, and commuter-travel to and from these zones is suspended for now. All scheduled leaves for Army personnel are halted until further notice. To maintain national readiness, there will however, within current strict Covid-19 preventative measures, still be conducted national training and exercise-activity in Indre Troms.

-During the pandemic, the Norwegian Armed Forces have had three main priorities: maintain operational readiness, prevent the spread of the virus and aid civilian authorities. These priorities remain, says Bakke-Jensen.