U.S. deploys strategic bombers to Norway to confront Russia, China in the Arctic
At the beginning of this month the U.S. Air Force announced that it was deploying bombers to Norway for the first time; not even during the long Cold War had that been done.
The bombers, B-1 Lancers, are long-range strategic aircraft that, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, were designed to carry eight air-launched cruise missiles or 24 short-range attack missiles (SRAMs) and 24 nuclear bombs or 84 500-pound conventional bombs. They have been used over the past 23 years in the wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq and in Bill Clinton’s and Tony Blair’s diversionary and devastating Operation Desert Fox in Iraq in 1998.
They can fly 4,600 miles without refueling and as such are a key asset for potential large-scale as well as regional conflicts.
The U.S. is one of only three nations possessing strategic bombers; the others are Russia and China, about which later.
Four of the B-1s and approximately 200 Air Force personnel are to be stationed at the Ørland Main Air Station in Central Norway, an air base that has been used regularly by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that is not far from northwestern Russia.
According to a Stars and Stripes feature on the impending deployment, it is part of a broader strategy for what NATO deems the High North: “The Air Force in July unveiled a new Arctic defense strategy focused on bolstering its presence in the area and countering threats from Russia and China.” Twelve years ago NATO held what it called a Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North. At that point NATO marked the Arctic as an area for military expansion.
An article of nine years ago, Norway: NATO Rehearses For War In The Arctic, warned that Norway was to play a key role in the battle for the Arctic, one which the aforementioned U.S. military publication points out is to be a confrontation with China and Russia there.
A CNN print analysis of the B-1 deployment supplements the Stars and Stripes report with the candid title of US deploying B-1 bombers to Norway to send a message to Russia. The opening sentence lays out the true purpose and character of the unprecedented deployment of American nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Norway:
“The US Air Force is deploying B-1 bombers to Norway for the first time in a move that sends a clear message to Moscow that the US military will operate in the strategically important Arctic region and demonstrate that it will defend allies in the area against any Russian aggression close to the country’s border.”
Of course, according to the article, recycling armed forces press releases and Atlantic Council-type think tank “analyses” as it does, the deployment of long-range American bombers over 4,000 miles from their current home at the Dyess Air Force Base, Texas to the Norwegian Sea not far from Russia is “defending allies from Russian aggression.”
The piece reveals the provenance of its highly-partisan tone with the use of such phrases as “defend/support allies and partners.” The CNN article dutifully quotes General Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa commander (“support allies and partners”), word for word from an Air Forces in Europe and Africa press release (which includes such obligatory phraseology as “improving interoperability with allies and partners”).
But it also provides a broader framework to the battle for the Arctic:
“President Joe Biden has already demonstrated he is prepared to adopt a tougher approach to Moscow than under his predecessor, Donald Trump. He held his first call late last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin and confronted him over a range of issues from a recent massive cyberattack to the suspected poisoning of the country’s leading opposition figure.”
And it cites recently outgoing secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett to the effect that “Russia considers maintaining its own Arctic access increasingly vital with almost 25% of its gross domestic product coming from hydrocarbons north of the Arctic Circle….”
So much for “defending allies and partners” as a rationale for the increasingly threatening American and NATO military buildup in the Arctic.
In late 2019 the U.S. installed a Globus-IIIe radar station in Vardø, Norway, less than 40 miles from Russia’s Kola Peninsula, part of what Newsweek identified as “the United States’ global missile defense system.” The radar site is near several strategic Russian naval bases which host nuclear submarines attached to the Northern Fleet. (In the event of a U.S.-NATO first strike against Russian land-based missiles and strategic bombers – see three paragraphs below – submarine-launched ballistic missiles would be the only means of retaliation available to Russia; and as such are its sole effective deterrent.)
The combination of American missile defense radar and nuclear-capable bombers so close to Russian strategic assets should make the Russian general staff extremely nervous.
A recent article in the Barents Observer lists Russian concerns about the Western military encroachment in its neighborhood as follows:
NATO is introducing new areas of warfare, like the use of digital operations and militarization of the space, potentially being used to attack Russian ballistic missiles before launch
The U.S. is undermining the global security balance and arms control treaties, and by doing pushing the world towards a new nuclear arms race
The news source summarily dismisses these eminently reasonable concerns with a terse sentence:
“The Norwegian Intelligence Service rejects the above listed misguided narrative that NATO is causing insecurity.”
But the Barents Observer had to concede that although Russian apprehensions are “misguided,” nevertheless Russia “considers an undermining of the strategic balance as an ‘existential threat’ that could justify the use of nuclear weapons.”
That alone should make the U.S. and NATO military encirclement of Russia, especially in the Arctic region, of the utmost concern to anyone fearing a potential catastrophe of a scale too horrible to contemplate.