New areas in Norway open for US military

Agreement extends defense cooperation between the nations

Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB
U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Marc Nathanson (left), and Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram (right) sign an extension to the agreement on defense cooperation between Norway and the United States.

Marius Helge Larsen &
Daniel Lundby Olsen
NTB

The Norwegian government will allow eight new “unified areas” where the United States can build out military infrastructure. From before, they have been given four such areas in Norway.

The proposed new places that are opened up to the Americans are Andøya air station, Ørland air station, Haakonsvern military station, Værnes air station and garrison, Bardufoss air station, Setermoen garrison including firing and training fields, Osmarka mountain facility, and Namsen fuel facility, the government informs.

Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram (Center Party) signed the agreement with U.S. Ambassador Marc Nathanson on Feb. 2.

“In the current security policy situation, we must strengthen the relationship with our allies. It is important for our security and the entire Nordic region. The United States is a close ally, and the cooperation between our two countries has developed over more than 75 years,” said Gram.

The new agreement is out for consultation and must be approved by the Storting.

Unfettered access

The new areas come in as an extension of the defense agreement with the United States that the Storting passed the summer of 2022.

The agreement included the creation of four united areas at Rygge air stations in Østfold, Sola in Rogaland and Evenes in Nordland, as well as at Ramsund Orlogsstasjon in Troms.

According to the Norwegian government, the United States may be given exclusive rights to use parts of the areas and build military infrastructure. The United States will have unfettered access to the areas.

“The security policy and operational needs are greater and more serious now than when the agreement was negotiated in 2021. More reunified areas in Norway will also have positive value in a Nordic perspective,” said the defense minister.

Controversial

The Socialist Party, the Socialist Left Party, and the Green Party voted against the earlier agreement made with the United States. The critics believed that the agreement in practice opens up for American bases on Norwegian soil.

“Norway must set the conditions for military activity on Norwegian soil. But this agreement gives a major power—that is, not an organization or an alliance we are part of—the authority to use force over Norwegian citizens and decide for themselves how they want to face what the United States sees as a security threat,” said Bjørnar Moxnes, defense policy spokesperson for the Socialist Party, to NTB.

“The Socialist Party will vote against any incorporation of new bases that lead to Norway giving up even more control and autonomy,” he adds.

The government has rejected the criticism and pointed out that the Americans do not have permanently stationed combat forces in Norway.

Since 1949, the Norwegian policy has been that other countries should not have military bases on Norwegian soil. The purpose is to ensure a balance between deterring and reassuring Russia.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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NTB

NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway