Norway cancels manoeuvres with Nato allies over virus fears

Norway said Tuesday it was cancelling military exercises with Nato allies in the Arctic planned for March over fears of the spread of Covid-19 variants.

Norway cancels manoeuvres with Nato allies over virus fears
The USS Mount Whitney during a Nato exercise in Norway in 2018. Photo: AFP

The Joint Viking manoeuvres were to involve 10,000 soldiers, including 3,400 from the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.

“Norway, along with the rest of world, is faced with a challenging situation,” Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said in a statement on the cancellation of Viking and another exercise, Rein I.

“We must be one step ahead to try to avoid the spread of the mutated and more contagious variant of the virus.”

Some 2,800 soldiers from the allied countries were already in place in the northern Troms region and “there will be a controlled and well-planned departure,” Bakke-Jensen said.

Last weekend Norway imposed the strictest measures since March in Oslo and the surrounding region after the discovery of the British coronavirus variant in a retirement home.

A founding member of Nato and sharing an Arctic border with Russia, Norway regularly hosts military exercises to harden troops against harsh winter conditions.

It had already cancelled the Cold Response 2020 manoeuvres in March which were to involve more than 15,000 Nato soldiers, also because of the coronavirus.

READ ALSO: Nato's Cold War games in icy Norway: 'We have been taking driving lessons on snow'

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Turkish president vows to block ‘terror haven’ Sweden from Nato

Turkey is 'determined' to block Sweden's and Finland's bids to join Nato, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday, calling Stockholm in particular a "complete terror haven."

Turkish president vows to block 'terror haven' Sweden from Nato

Abandoning their long established non-alignment policy after Russia invaded Ukraine, Finland and Sweden on Wednesday submitted a joint application for Nato membership.

But Erdogan is threatening to block the bid, singling out Sweden as “a complete terror focus, a complete terror haven,” in a video broadcast he tweeted on Thursday.

“We will continue this policy in a determined fashion and we told relevant parties that we will say ‘no’ to Finland and Sweden joining Nato,” the Turkish leader said in one excerpt of the video from his chat with young people.

The United States is “confident” that Turkey’s concerns over accession to Nato by Finland and Sweden can be overcome, a top advisor to President Joe Biden said Wednesday.

“We’re confident that at the end of the day Finland and Sweden” will enter Nato and “that Turkey’s concerns can be addressed,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

Speaking after Erdogan released his video, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that “concerns” raised by Turkey over the Sweden and Finland’s applications to the military alliance were being addressed.

“Of course, we are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed,” to find “an agreement on how to move forward,” Stoltenberg told a Copenhagen conference, after Turkey opposed the applications of the two Nordic countries over what it considers leniency toward Kurdish militant groups.