War games canceled out of caution

Leaders call off military exercises for fear of spreading coronavirus

Cold Response

Photo: NTB Scanpix
The Norwegian Ministry of Defense has canceled its scheduled military exercise Cold Response due to coronavirus concerns. Here, soldiers train under the 2014 Cold Response exercise.

Translated by Andy Meyer

Leaders in the Ministry of Defense decided on March 11 that the military exercise “Cold Response” in Troms og Finnmark will be called off.

The head of the Ministry of Defense’s Joint Headquarters, in discussions with the rest of the defense leadership, made the decision.

“The virus is now out of control in society, and it’s a new situation. Therefore, we have decided to implement a guided drawdown of the exercise,” said Lt. Gen. Rune Jakobsen, head of the Joint Headquarters.

The defense leadership discussed the situation through the night after the Director General of the Norwegian Directorate of Health Bjørn Guldvog requested a new evaluation on March 10 in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Now, when we draw down the exercise, we won’t unnecessarily burden the health system with sickness, sample-taking, or the risk of accidents,” Jakobsen said.

Supporting civil society

Close to 14,000 soldiers are gathered in Northern Norway, where the field exercise was to begin on March 12. Finland, with 400 soldiers, has already withdrawn from the exercise.

Jakobsen emphasized that the Ministry of Defense must take responsibility in the complex situation that has developed so that their personnel do not contribute to spreading the infection in society. By canceling the exercise, the Ministry of Defense can also put itself in a position to maintain its combat capacity as well as free up resources to support civil society in the times ahead.

Many of the military’s medical personnel also hold positions in the Norwegian health service, and they are needed there, it was reported in a press release.

Guided drawdown

“Cold Response” is the largest military exercise in Norway this year, and soldiers from nine countries were to participate. It was scheduled to take place March 18.

The Ministry of Defense is working now to inform the relevant participants and divisions.

Jakobsen points out that it will also be important to complete a guided drawdown so that neither the military nor civil society is exposed to unnecessary risk.

“This does not mean that all operative activity in the military will cease. Our daily operations continue, but some measures are being taken in response to the coronavirus in Norway, such that we maintain our preparedness,” said the Ministry of Defense.

This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.