Close to 3,000 troops from the US, UK, the Netherlands and Germany are returning home from Norway after the Norwegian government decided to cancel this year’s cold weather exercises due to the current COVID situation.
Exercises Rein I and Joint Viking had been expected to attract approximately 3,400 soldiers for evolutions in Indre Troms in Norway’s North.
Up until the decision to cancel the evolutions that were scheduled to take place in March, approximately 2,900 allied troops had arrived in Indre Troms. Of these 2 900, about 1,000 are from the United States, short of a 1,000 are from the United Kingdom, around 600 from the Netherlands and about 200 from Germany.
There will be a halt in the arrival of new allied forces to Indre Troms. For those forces already in place, there will be a controlled and well-planned departure, the Norwegian government said.
“Norway, along with the rest of world, is faced with a challenging situation. The restrictions in place in Nordre-Follo and the municipalities surrounding it, are the most severe since the start of the Covid-pandemic,” Norwegian defense minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.
“We must be one step ahead to try to avoid the spread of the mutated, and more contagious variant of the virus. We have weighed the arguments and our decision has been to cancel the planned allied exercise activity in Troms.”
The government noted Norwegian Armed Forces would accommodate tailored winter-training where possible and in adherence with proper infection prevention measures until the various departure dates.
Joint Viking is a large winter exercise held in Norway every second year. It includes forces from land, sea and air – including allied troops and units. The main goals of the exercise are testing the Norwegian Armed Forces’ ability to operate during demanding winter conditions.
Allied training and exercises in Norway during winter-conditions is important both for Norway and allies, and are important contributions to Norway’s security within NATO. In order for allied forces to reinforce the defense of NATO’s northern part, they need to have the knowledge to operate there. For this reason, Norwegian and allied troops also need to train and exercise in this area in peacetime.
This year’s cancellation comes in addition to last year’s major exercise, Cold Response 20, which was significantly reduced in size due to strict preventative Covid-19 measures.