The Air Force has deployed four B-1B Lancer bombers to Ørland in Norway and the Russians are very upset about it. The Lancers come from the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. This latest move signals a shift towards the Arctic by the U.S. military to counter Russia but it also represents a shift for Norway, an important NATO ally.

As reported in High North News, Norway was careful to try and put the Russians at ease about the first-ever deployment of a strategic bomber, like B-1B Lancers, to the country. In a joint telephone press conference with USAFE Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Steven L. Basham and  Lt. Gen. Yngve Odlo, Chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, Gen Odlo stated, “It’s normal military activity between two close allies. The only special thing is that it is the new asset being deployed to Norway. But it is also a quite normal, and an important asset to be able to conduct high-intensity joint, combined operations.”

Yet, the Russians did not react as if this were a normal deployment. On its Facebook page the Russian Embassy in Oslo posted the following:

“The activation of the foreign military presence in Norway and in the North including sending strategic bombers ‘B-1B Lancers’ does not contribute generally in terms of stability… We will continue to monitor the situation and implement measures to defend the security of our country and the region.”

So, is it normal to have strategic bombers in Norway that can reach the Soviet naval bases in the Arctic? No, it isn’t. While these bombers were there they conducted a series of exercises with other NATO partners. Canadian, German, and Norwegian warships and F-35 fighters operated off the coast of Norway simulating electronics warfare and the shooting down of anti-ship missiles. The B-1Bs probably acted in the role of Russian land-based bombers flying down from Russia.

So what is really going on?

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron flies over the Arctice Circle, Sept. 25, 2020. Two bombers assigned to the unit completed flights that passed directly over the North Pole enroute to perform interoperability training with the Norwegian air force. (U.S. Air Force aircrew photo)

For decades, the Norwegians have tried to walk a fine line between being a NATO partner while posturing as a “Good Neighbor” to the Russians with whom they share a common border. Norway does not have a large military but does have thousands of miles of coastline to defend and Russia has not reciprocated Norway’s Good Neighbor policy.

In September 2019, the  Norwegian security and defense portal claimed that according to sources inside the Norwegian military Russian Spetsnaz troops were found operating inside Norwegian territory, specifically, on the island of Svalbard and on mainland Norway itself.