– An invasion is easier to carry out while there is frost on the ground, says Chief of Defense Eirik Kristoffersen.
Chief of Defense Eirik Kristoffersen is Norway’s leading military expert. He believes we should be concerned about the situation in Ukraine, where Russia is close to the border with 100,000 soldiers.
– The large build-up of forces that Russia has done, can in itself lead to misunderstandings, unnecessary escalation or accidents, Kristoffersen says to Aftenposten.
– We do not know what Vladimir Putin’s real goal is. He has forces in place now to carry out a conventional invasion. But what can he achieve with it, in the short and long term? The costs are purely human, humanitarian and military. Ukraine has been at war since 2014, says Kristoffersen.
And follows up:
– Today there is a lot of talk about complex threats. About cyber attacks and other threatening activity. Now we can see that military force is still used as forced diplomacy, and in the worst case in the traditional sense, with attacks.
This is how the Armed Forces has increased its preparedness
Swedish soldiers have been patrolling the streets of Gotland since last weekend, in response to the conflict. Before Christmas, the Chief of Defense took several steps as a result of the tense situation:
- Increased vigilance was introduced, especially for the Intelligence Service and the Cyber Defense.
- The military plan was reviewed.
- Russia was notified of NATO’s major exercise Cold Response, which will take place in Norway in February and March.
- In meetings between the Nordic chiefs of defense, Norway said that we are living up to our obligations, with soldiers in Lithuania, and with a Norwegian frigate sailing with an American aircraft carrier group in the Mediterranean.
But perhaps the most important thing: Norwegian military activity should continue as before.
– This activity is already so visible that it has not been necessary to take other visible measures, which Sweden has needed to do, says Kristoffersen.
The Armed Forces is nevertheless prepared for an escalation.
Has there been abnormal activity around Norway?
Constant attacks on Norwegian computer networks
In the autumn, Russia usually conducts a large exercise for ballistic, nuclear weapons, in Norwegian neighboring areas.
– Last year it did not happen. It was unusual. Otherwise, Russian activity has been normal, perhaps lower than expected, says the defense chief. There has also been no increase in cyber attacks against Norway.
– Have forces moved from the Northern Fleet to Ukraine, on a daily basis the closest forces to Norway?
– No, but it looks like it could happen now.
– Russia has sent landing craft out into the Baltic Sea, and Sweden is experiencing overflights from drones. Are you in doubt that the drones are also Russian?
It will be speculation, but it is difficult to understand what the Russians will achieve. I am convinced that Russia has everything to gain from isolating the conflict with Ukraine, that it is not escalating to other places.
Will Russia attack Ukraine?
According to the Chief of Defense, Russia now has the capacity at the border to carry out a major invasion of the country. They have taken so many steps, with air forces ready, with vessels in the Black Sea, they have almost surrounded the whole of Ukraine. This also enables them to continue their forced diplomacy or carry out minor precision attacks.
– What can a small-scale provocation involve?
– It can be anything from crossing the border to minor skirmishes between Russian and Ukrainian forces, which have not been ordered. Pure accidents can occur when there is also large Allied activity nearby. That is why it is now so important to talk together, as we in Norway have benefited from cooperating with Russia in the north, says Kristoffersen.
Hard to see Putin just pulling out
– Will it be embarrassing for the country and Putin if the Russians withdraw without carrying out any attack?
– Then you’re in politics. It is difficult to imagine that Putin would just withdraw, without getting anything out of the situation, after spending enormous resources. This is what one must find out through diplomacy.
– If there is a conflict, what does it take for it to be limited to the border areas between Russia and Ukraine?
– Ukraine is not a member of NATO. It remains to be seen how the West will react. But it is difficult to occupy Ukraine. The will to defend is great, and they have received support from several western countries.
– Russia can stay a long time
– How long can Russia stand with such large forces near the border with Ukraine?
– I think that is a long time. Russia has previously shown that it has great toughness and endurance. But purely militarily, they do not have much time. An invasion is easier to carry out while there is frost on the ground, says Eirik Kristoffersen.
– What does it take to have such large forces gathered in an area like this, over time?
– They have 100,000 in the front line and have mobilized just as many in reserve forces. It requires water, food, ammunition. But it can be done. NATO had at most over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.