Monitoring Desk: “The Norwegian media believes that a constant buildup of US troops and military equipment on Norwegian soil, gives extraordinary blanket powers to US troops and leadership of both major parties (Labour and Conservative) have been accepting NATO and the US military demands while forgetting the Norwegian cultural background of being anti-nuclear”.
This is documented by Prague-based Foreign Affairs expert Shazia Anwer Cheema in her article “The liability of ‘Protection of the Motherland” published in Pakistan Today on Friday, September 24, 2021.
My visit to Oslo was just after the Norwegian Parliamentary Elections held on 13 September, therefore my foremost interest as a Communication practitioner was to understand the dynamics of these elections, their impact on the future politics of Norway, and the role of media within the Norwegian political system.
The Labour Party has emerged as the largest party on the Left Wing side and the election results indicate a clear divide between the urban and rural areas. The urban areas voted for the environmentally friendly parties and the rural area voted mostly for the Farmers Party (Centre Party). It has placed itself in the third position with 28 seats in Parliament.
The Farmer Party and the rural area voters are traditionally “anti-centralization” and “anti-EU”. The issue resulting in the gain for the Farmers party was its anti-EU stance. The party is considered as the bulwark against the centralization of power in Brussels, having a negative impact on Norwegian agriculture and fisheries. The Centre Party follows the political philosophy of the Nordic agrarian parties. Positioning themselves in the centre of the political spectrum, these parties are non-Socialist and typically combine a commitment to small businesses, rural issues, and political decentralization, and, at times, skepticism towards the European Union. The parties have divergent views on the free market and environmentalism.
Another interesting issue I found is strong criticism in the Norwegian media against the US-Norway Supplementary Defense Cooperation Agreement (SDCA), although this issue did not get any attention in the latest parliamentary elections.
The Norwegian media believes that a constant buildup of US troops and military equipment on Norwegian soil gives extraordinary blanket powers to US troops.
Norwegian journalists believe that their governments under both Labour and Conservative leadership have been accepting NATO and the US military demands while forgetting the Norwegian cultural background of being anti-nuclear.
On the other hand, supporters in the media of the US military buildup believe Norway shares a border with powerful Russia, therefore the US presence is in favour of Norwegian security. However, critics in the media believe that the 20-year US presence against a resourceless enemy (the Taliban) ended with embarrassing withdrawal so how would a US presence in Norway be helpful against one of the most powerful countries of the world— the Russian Federation? It is pertinent to remember that Norway joined NATO with a condition that its soil would not host NATO troops or atomic weapons. However, the severe threat of Russia injected by US-sponsored think tanks and media, and of course Russian taking back Crimea. made things easy for the Pentagon and Norwegians are now psychologically accepting the heavy US military presence in their country.
Media highlighted controversial landings of new US bombers in Norway and the USA’s renewal of requests to use a civilian harbour not far from downtown Tromsø for its nuclear submarines. The local city council of Tromsø turned down initial requests in 2016 and 2019 and residents have been mounting demonstrations against the USA’s unwelcome nuclear submarines.
Recently the Norwegian media reported that the US military is now set “to move in” to Norwegian military bases, as part of an agreement. This is not part of any NATO agreement but is a bilateral agreement between Norway and the USA.
Norway’s defense department told the media that having US soldiers at Norwegian bases will give Norway “extra protection.” NATO’s security guarantee will be more credible, says Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, a former defense minister herself.
The USA also wants to land and take off with their own bombers, fighter jets, surveillance aircraft, and transport planes.
In April 2021, Norway and the USA signed the new Supplementary Defense Cooperation Agreement (SDCA). This will enable the USA to build facilities at three Norwegian airfields and one naval base to further enhance cooperation between the two armed forces.
The latest arrangement will also allow US infrastructure investments at all four locations, which are Rygge Military Air Station and Airfield, Sola Military Air Station and Airfield, Evenes Military Air Station and Airfield, and Ramsund Naval Station. The USA will have unimpeded access to, and use of, these facilities and areas.
All US military presence, training, and exercises will be regulated in accordance with SDCA. The agreement also offers a framework to build cooperation between Norwegian and US authorities regarding activities and operational and security issues.
If we look in the history of US military Deployment on foreign lands, it is evident that local residents usually expressed their concerns, but political parties irrespective of the economic condition of the countries either keep quiet or indirectly support such deployments. However, the media always raises issues linked with these deployments.
A research “Understanding How Populations Perceive U.S. Troop Deployments” conducted by Michael A. Allen, Michael Flynn, Carla Martinez Machain, and Andrew Stravers indicates that US military deployments in Australia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey created several non-security dimensions of these deployments, including social, economic, and political effects. Research indicates that host-state residents’ perceptions regarding the USA, its government, and people are created through such deployments and US military personnel faced an underappreciated situation. The same state of affairs has been reported from downtown Tromsø.
The narrative of “security threats” are usually behind these deployments, therefore, no political party takes the risk to contest such deployment because the liability of “Protection of Motherland” is so heavy to take responsibility.
Apparently, it does not matter if a country is poor or rich, if the USA decides deployment, then democratic institutions stand with the USA.
The writer Shazia Cheema is an analyst writing for national and international media outlets. She heads the DND Thought Center. She did her MA in Cognitive Semiotics from Aarhus University Denmark and is currently registered as a Ph.D. Scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague