Norway raises military alert level amid drones, Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Norway, a NATO member that shares a 120-kilometer border with Russia, has raised its military alert level since Tuesday, citing Russia’s war in Ukraine after a drone sighting suspected of putting the country at risk.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store maintained there was no immediate threat to Norway, but said Europe was facing “the most difficult security situation in decades.”

“Today, we have no reason to believe that Russia would want to involve Norway or any other country in a war. But the war in Ukraine makes it necessary for all NATO countries to be more careful,” he told a press conference on Monday.

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Changes in the level of military alertness include some forces spending less time on training and more focus on “maritime surveillance,” Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said. Watching over the North Sea and protecting oil and gas installations “is a priority,” Gram told reporters. Norway’s Home Guard, a rapid mobilization force, will also increase its presence, officials said without elaborating on security changes.

Drone sightings in recent weeks have prompted a Norwegian spy investigation and the detention of at least seven Russians – including the son of a friend of President Vladimir Putin – for flying drones or taking photographs in certain areas. Drones were reported over Norway’s airports and its offshore oil and gas fields, the backbone of the country’s economy.

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Norway on edge over drone sighting, arrest of Putin’s loyal son

Norway, now a major supplier of natural gas to Europe, and other countries have sought to tighten infrastructure security since the September explosion that hit the Nord Stream pipeline, built to carry natural gas from Russia to the Baltic Sea. European leaders have accused sabotage, and Norway’s armed forces have since stepped up naval operations in the North Sea alongside NATO forces.

Norway’s prime minister dismissed the drone this month as “foreign intelligence,” pointing indirectly at Russia. Norwegian authorities have said the purpose of the drones may be to instill fear, reassuring citizens of the low risk of an attack.

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After the announcement of the height of the alert level, the prime minister of Norway told the reporter that people will not notice a big change in their daily life, and it will be more visible along the coast and in the facilities where the Home Guard is located.

Fears of war in Ukraine have pushed the Nordic countries to strengthen their borders with Russia, and neighbors Norway, Sweden and Finland, to apply to join the NATO defense alliance in a tectonic shift with strong US support.

Emily Rauhala and Sammy Westfall contributed to this report.

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