Britain is to reinforce its military presence in the Arctic in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Tuesday.
The region “is important for our communications, it is important for our trade and our travels, it is important for our freedoms,” said Wallace as he visited troops at Bardufoss in Norway, a cold weather training base for Royal Air Force, British Army, and Royal Navy helicopter crews.
The Russian operation in Ukraine means London must step up its land and sea surveillance in the region, Wallace told a press conference, underlining “a commitment to increase the amount of surveying we do across the sea and land.”
“We are going to effectively, permanently, have a … Marine strike group permanently … active in the Nordics,” said Wallace as he underlined British commitment to protecting “our infrastructure, the cables that we see Russia target to make us vulnerable.”
Britain participates in biennial exercises with partners in the North Atlantic but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen the area take on added strategic importance.
Wallace’s Norwegian counterpart Odd Roger Enoksen said that his country, as a member of NATO but also a neighbor of Russia, “wants more allied activity up North.”
He further noted, “The UK is our most important ally in Europe.”
Some 30,000 troops from 25 NATO countries as well as non-member partners Sweden and Finland are currently on maneuvers in Norway’s far north, testing the alliance’s capacity to defend against aggression.