Russia has called a visit by the world’s biggest warship, the USS Gerald R Ford aircraft carrier, to Oslo in Norway an “illogical and harmful” show of force at a time of heightened tensions.
In a show of NATO firepower, the 337-metre (1,106 ft) nuclear-powered ship sailed for the first time into the Oslo Fjord under escort on Wednesday, where it will stay for several days before heading to the Arctic for military exercises, according to Norwegian media.
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The highly-publicised visit, which comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over the war in Ukraine, was denounced by the Russian embassy in Norway.
NATO member Norway shares a land border with Russia as well as a maritime border in the Barents Sea.
“There are no questions in the [Arctic] north that require a military solution, nor topics where outside intervention is needed,” the Russian embassy in Olso said in a Facebook post.
Russian embassy spokesman Timur Chekanov told the French news agency AFP that the demonstration of military might in Norway was baffling and unwelcome.
“Considering that Oslo admits that Russia poses no direct military threat to Norway, such shows of force seem illogical and harmful,” he told AFP in an email.
A vast no-fly airspace and sea ban has been implemented around the USS Gerald R Ford, which can transport up to 90 aircraft and helicopters and is expected to remain moored in the Norwegian capital for several days.
“This is Norway’s security. It is a clear expression of the security guarantees we have through NATO, not least the close cooperation and partnership we have with the United States,” Norway’s Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said in a statement released by the US Navy.
— USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) (@Warship_78) May 24, 2023
According to the online daily Barents Observer, the ship is expected to head for the Arctic several days ahead of the May 29 start of the Arctic Challenge Exercise, gathering 150 aircraft and 3,000 military personnel from 14 Western countries.
The war games will be conducted from near the Russian border in the east to the coast of the Norwegian Sea in the west, the newspaper reported.
The Norwegian military said in a statement that the arrival of the Gerald R Ford – the US Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier – would provide Norway with “a unique opportunity” to develop cooperation and work closely with the country’s most important ally.
The Norwegian military and NATO allies have been patrolling around offshore oil and gas platforms since late last year, following mysterious explosions that hit the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea and which were believed to be acts of sabotage, though those responsible have yet to be identified.
Last year, Norway became Europe’s largest gas supplier after a drop in Russian gas flows due to the political and economic fallout from Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Norway said it will support training programmes by the US for Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets.
“The government backs this initiative and is considering how Norway can contribute together with allies and partners,” Defence Minister Gram said.
But Norway has not decided if it will give any of its F-16 jets to Ukraine, the minister separately told public broadcaster NRK.