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Norway to allow U.S. military to build on its soil in new accord

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Norwegian flags flutter at Karl Johans street in Oslo, Norway, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

OSLO, April 16 (Reuters) - Norway, which shares a short border with giant neighbour Russia, said on Friday it has signed a revised agreement with the United States on how to regulate U.S. military activity on its soil.

The agreement between the two NATO allies will let the U.S. build facilities at three Norwegian airfields and one naval base, but will not amount to separate U.S. bases, the government said.

The deal made by the minority government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg must be ratified by Norway's parliament before coming into force.

"The agreement regulates and facilitates U.S. presence, training and exercises in Norway, thus facilitating rapid U.S. reinforcement of Norway in the event of crisis or war," the government said.

Relations between Norway and Russia, which share an Arctic border, gradually improved in the post-Cold War era before suffering a setback when Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

That triggered tension in the north with a military build-up on both sides of the border and more frequent military manoeuvres, but both nations also seek to cooperate on local matters such as cross-border travel and fisheries.

Since joining NATO as a founding member in 1949, Norway has said it would not allow foreign bases to be established in peacetime or the stockpiling of nuclear arms, although Western troops are welcome to exercise on its soil.

"Our cooperation with our allies is under continuous development. The agreement reaffirms Norway's close relationship with the U.S. and confirms Norway's key position on the northern flank of NATO," Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said.

"Our policies regarding the stationing of foreign forces on Norwegian territory, the stockpiling or deployment of nuclear weapons and port visits remain unchanged," she said.

The Russian embassy in Oslo was not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche

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