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NATO’s Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR


Troops from 27 countries have completed one of NATO’s biggest war games since the 1980s in Norway.

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NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

Troops from 27 countries have completed one of NATO’s biggest war games since the 1980s in Norway.

Nora Lorek for NPR

In March, a United States Marine Corps general aboard an Italian aircraft carrier floating in an Arctic fjord ordered French troops to launch an amphibious assault from a Dutch ship to repel the occupation of Norway.

It was just a simulation – part of NATO’s “Cold Response” exercise, which takes place every two years. This year, however, with all eyes looking across the Norwegian-Russian border, the exercise felt a little more real.

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

Top: A helicopter from Bjerkvik, Norway flies en route to land on an aircraft carrier at sea. Middle left: The ship’s captain, Marcello Grivelli, and STV Caterina Massaro in the deck of the aircraft carrier. Bottom: Grivelli takes a selfie on the flight deck with US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Stephanie Baer, ​​in a sudden snowstorm.

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“Having a major power in Europe engaged in a vast land-to-air war, attacking your neighbor, influences everything,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who was watching the war games. “Norway needs an alliance, allies, training, relevant defense to be safe. And that’s what we practice here.”

Troops from 27 countries took part in one of NATO’s biggest war games since the 1980s. Although planned two years ago, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has gave this NATO exercise a Cold War air – and a renewed mission to deter Russia from thinking that any NATO country might be an easy target.

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Stephanie Baer, ​​aboard the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi.

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“We want the whole world, anyone who would face a defensive alliance like NATO, to understand that it is ready to defend all of its members. Unequivocally,” said USMC Brigadier General Anthony Henderson, who led the exercise aboard the Italian aircraft. carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, where hundreds of Italian sailors hosted US Marines.

Over the past few years, Russian ships have closely monitored the operation, even testing nearby missiles. Russia’s Northern Fleet, including nuclear submarines, is stationed just across the border from Norway. This year, this fleet is busy, bombarding Ukraine from the Black Sea. But in this region, the Russia of the “Great North” is still considered to be ahead of its rivals.

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

US General Anthony Henderson, top, aboard the aircraft carrier where hundreds of Italian sailors greeted US Marines.

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“The United States let some of that capability atrophy after the Cold War ended. Now, in the last few years, we’ve really paid more attention to the need to restore our icebreaker fleet, and also to be able to equip our forces to operate in cold weather and more dangerous conditions,” said Sherri Goodman, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense.

Goodman says Russia still has a huge advantage in the Arctic – about 50 icebreaker ships, compared to the two US Coast Guard ships. And she fears that melting sea ice, new shipping routes and a run for Arctic mining and drilling could present opportunities for a crisis with Russia. Especially since Vladimir Putin is now a pariah.

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

Crew aboard the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, prepared a helicopter for takeoff in blizzard conditions.

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“We have entered an era of cold peace in the Arctic at best, where Russia is less committed to the Arctic institutions that have provided stability over the past quarter century. an armed conflict, we are moving towards an area where deterrence and defense will play a greater role,” Goodman said.

At the same time as NATO was training in the Norwegian Arctic, the United States was conducting a similar exercise with 8,000 troops in Alaska, along the Bering Sea, where Russia has stepped up military activities in recent years. .

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

“After years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria – to go back to the arctic environment… it’s something you have to relearn every year,” Norway’s defense chief, General Eirik Kristoffersen, said. as he reviewed NATO exercises. Cold Response 2022.

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Working in the Arctic is inherently complicated – these conditions may have contributed to the deaths of four US Marines in Norway when their Osprey tiltrotor crashed during the Friday March 18 exerciseand. Search and rescue was hampered by a sudden blizzard, something that happened almost daily during the three weeks of War Games.

It is equally complicated to direct close air support to 27 different national forces, spanning many languages ​​and military cultures.

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

Top: Dutch troops practice an amphibious landing during the NATO war games in Norway. Left: Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre reviews soldiers and missile systems.

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“It’s a very complex exercise, and that’s part of what we were trying to get after, ‘how did we learn to work well together?’ You can’t just shoot into somebody else’s space because you might hurt somebody there. You have to make sure you’re doing that good coordination,” said U.S. Navy Maj. Caleb Brown, who led – simulated – the artillery aboard the Giuseppe Garibaldi.

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, with her cockpit elevator lowered, cruising through a Norwegian fjord above the Arctic Circle. Obbedisco -“I obey” was the motto of Italian military hero Giuseppe Garibaldi.

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In the NATO force as a whole, the only real combat experience comes from a very different type of war, in Iraq, Afghanistan or perhaps Syria. So, “Cold Response” was as much about learning how to stay warm, how to de-ice planes, and how to deal with extreme weather conditions.

As a sudden white snowstorm brought all air craft to a standstill on the deck of the Italian aircraft carrier, several crews were left waiting for full clearance. But part of the exercise is to build camaraderie between NATO troops, so the Italians and Americans threw a snowball fight on the line of flight.

NATO's Arctic War Game Had a Cold War Smell: NPR

With flights halted due to a sudden blizzard, Italian and American troops began a snowball fight aboard the Giuseppe Garibaldi.

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