A report Russia staged a full-scale invasion of Svalbard during military training exercises caused Norway’s media to blow up Wednesday, so to speak, with reports of NATO participating in “crisis meetings after Norway’s total collapse” and Norway denying the exercise happened.
An initial attack by Russia overwhelmed Norway’s fighter jets, allowing a second wave to invade Svalbard essentially without resistance, the website AldriMer.no reported Wednesday in its detailed narrative about the “Zapad 2017” exercise that took place in the Barents region last month. The report was picked up by mainstream media almost immediately. with NRK opening its morning newscast with the story.
“Six different sources from the Norwegian defense establishment as well as within the NATO command structure independently confirm the dramatic events,” the article by AldriMer Editor Kjetil Stormark states. Subsequently, there were “several crisis meetings between NATO and Norwegian military authorities. The Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS) was able to provide no or little warning of the simulated Russian attack, carried out by Russian bomber jets and an extensive naval fleet.”
“NATO believes there was a complete failure in the Norwegian military capacity and response during this last Russian exercise,” a Norwegian senior military officer said, according to the website.
Norwegian military officials are putting up a strong fight about the allegations they were unable to do so in the reported simulation.
“It’s not often I read a story in Norwegian media that has so many mistakes, in this instance from Aldrimer.no,” Morten Haga Lunde, head of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, told NRK. “Firstly, the intelligence service has a very good overview and situational understanding in our regions – and especially good understanding of the situation before and during this exercise.”
“Let me take the main element of what has been conveyed by Aldrimer.no: Russia simulated an attack on Svalbard. There was no such activity,” he added.
AldriMer’s name (which translates in English to “never again”) is “to stress that Norway must never again be invaded as it was by Nazi German forces in 1940,” according to the website NewsInEnglish.no., which also asserts “it’s widely viewed in Norway as a credible source of information on defense and military issues.”
The outcome, if the exercise indeed happened, should hardly be surprise for Norway’s military and intelligence officials – they predicted a largely similar scenario when they conducted their own simulation last year.
A “Battle for Svalbard 2030″study published by the Norwegian Armed Forces declared military capabilities “have to improve significantly” to fend off a full-scale Russian invasion. Current forces are inferior to Russia’s, located too far from Svalbard to respond quickly to an invasion and military assets clustered in a small area would be vulnerable to attack or sabotage before actual conflict occurs.
“A specific consequence may be that Norwegian units never get out of the harbor, for example, due to sabotage or the ability of Russian cruise missiles to threaten units,” the report notes. “Taking out the operational airbase or fighters and submarines has been a pronounced Russian ambition in the event a conflict with Norway arises.”