Finland pulled troops from an Arctic military exercise with the US and 8 other countries over coronavirus concerns
The Finnish military announced that it was canceling its participation in Cold Response 20, a multinational exercise involving the US and eight other countries, out of concern about coronavirus. A US Marine Corps spokesman told Insider that US forces were "working closely" with Norwegian officials who are "making appropriate adjustments to minimize" exposure of participating military personnel and locals to the virus. A soldier at a Norwegian military camp tested positive for coronavirus on March 5. The camp was locked down and that is the only person who has tested positive for the illness, the Norwegian military said. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The Finnish military has canceled the participation of some 400 of its troops in this month's Exercise Cold Response 20 in Norway. "The participation of the Armed Forces in the Cold Response exercise conducted by the Norwegian Armed Forces from 9 to 19 March 2020 in northern Norway has been canceled due to the [coronavirus] situation," the Finnish army said in a release that was first reported by Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer. Those troops had not traveled to Norway and will not do so, the Finnish military said on March 8, when the decision was made to suspend their participation, according to the release. Cold Response is a biennial Norwegian-led tactical field-training exercise that was to include some 15,000 personnel from the US, the UK, Dutch, German, French, Belgium, Danish, Finnish, and Swedish militaries.
Roughly 1,500 US service members from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force are set to take part. "Exercise Cold Response 20 is ongoing and we're working closely with our Norwegian Allies, who are making appropriate adjustments to minimize COVID virus exposure to participating military personnel and the local community," Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for US Marine Corps Forces Europe, said in an email on March 8, referring to COVID-19, the infectious disease spread by the recently discovered coronavirus. "We remain in close coordination with the Norwegian military and public health authorities to ensure the well-being of our personnel and local population," Rankine-Galloway added. Cold Response 20 is meant to enhance capabilities and allied cooperation in military operations in the harsh Arctic environment, with training exercises on rugged terrain and in extreme cold weather. Preparing for this environment has been a major focus for the US military in recent years as it reorients toward what military leaders have described as "great power competition."
This year's iteration of Cold Response is meant to "emphasize and test critical activities ranging from the reception of allied and partner reinforcements and command and control interoperability to combined joint combat operations, force sustainment, and combat logistics," according to a release issued at the end of February. Amphibious operations involving both sea and air assets are also a major focus. The active portion of the exercise takes place in mid-March in the Tromso region of northern Norway, but there has been military activity around the country since January, as Norwegian and foreign forces move to the exercise areas. Norwegian military and civilian personnel have taken precautions related to the spread of the coronavirus ahead the exercise. However, on March 5, a soldier in the Skjold military camp, also in the Tromso region, tested positive for it. The camp was locked down, with 850 soldiers quarantined in the camp or in their homes outside of it, according to the Norwegian military. Norway's Army also took measures to keep the virus from spreading inside the camp. "So far this is the only person who has tested positive on the coronavirus," the military said. "The Norwegian Armed Forces is continuously conducting tests on other personnel that are suspected of being infected."
Norway's military has also said it is "continuously giving guidelines in Norwegian and English to all units participating in the exercise that they must follow to avoid the spread of infection." Norwegian Armed Forces Joint Medical Services have asked military units to set routines to prevent the introduction and spread of the virus among military units and to prevent further spread of the virus should it be found in Norway. The NAFJMS also referred to the general advice given by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and "encourage[s] all units to have an increased focus on personal hygiene (including respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette and proper hand hygiene procedures), and to prepare for the isolation and possible testing of personnel showing symptoms of covid-19." Cold Response 20 overlaps with Exercise Northern Griffin 2020, a Finnish-led exercise lasting until March 22. Forces from Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, and the UK are participating, with US personnel present as observers, according to The Barents Observer.SEE ALSO: The US Army is sending 20,000 troops across the Atlantic to see if they have the 'bandwidth' to fight a major war Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 myths about the coronavirus, including why masks won't help
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As US Navy ships wrap up a historic Arctic exercise, Russia's navy sends them off with its own nearby drills
US and British navy ships sailed out of the Barents Sea on Friday, wrapping up several...US and British navy ships sailed out of the Barents Sea on Friday, wrapping up several days of exercises in the Arctic, an area of increasing focus for NATO navies. Russia's Northern Fleet has its headquarters and major bases on the Barents Sea, and its ships conducted their own exercises in the sea as the US and British ships finished theirs. These photos show the latest in a broader effort by NATO navies to increase their presence in the Arctic and adapt to harsh conditions there. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. US Navy ships and a British warship wrapped up seven days of exercises in the Arctic on Friday when they departed the Barents Sea, ending the first trip by US Navy surface ships to that sea since the mid-1980s. A surface action group of some 1,200 sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided-missile destroyers USS Donald Cook, USS Porter, USS Roosevelt, combat support ship USNS Supply, and British Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent entered the Barents on May 4 for Arctic training. The exercises were supported by a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. The Donald Cook, the Porter, the Kent, and the Supply sailed into the Arctic Circle on May 1 and conducted anti-submarine operations in the Norwegian Sea with a US Navy submarine and a P-8A. Throughout the exercises, the USNS Supply supported the warships with replenishments-at-sea, which allow US and allied ships to remain on station for long periods of time. These photos show the latest NATO naval venture into the Arctic, which is part of a broader effort by alliance navies to increase their presence in the region and adapt to the harsh conditions there.SEE ALSO: The US Navy sent surface ships deep into the Arctic, and close to Russia, for the first time in over 30 years The warships sailed into the Barents "to assert freedom of navigation and demonstrate seamless integration among allies," US Naval Forces Europe said on May 4. "It was great to be operating in the Barents Sea again," Capt. Joseph Gagliano, commander of Destroyer Squadron 60 and of Combined Task Force 65, said in a release. "This is what it means to be a global Navy, sailing wherever international law allows. And it is even better that we returned with the Royal Navy." While there, the warships worked on "combined and divisional surface warfare tactics, refined coordinated operations with US Air Forces Europe, and reinforced Arctic communications capabilities, while maintaining proficiency in critical warfare areas." "The Arctic is an important region, and our naval forces operate there, including the Barents Sea, to ensure the security of commerce and demonstrate freedom of navigation in that complex environment," Adm. James Foggo, commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Africa, said in the release. The Arctic is an area of renewed attention for NATO amid tensions with Russia. The US Navy and its partners have spent more time in the region to gain experience with the challenges it poses to naval operations. With its presence, the Kent was "practising further integration with our allies and proving her ability to operate at sea in sub-zero temperatures hundreds of miles inside the Arctic Circle," the British navy said. The sun doesn't set all the way in the Arctic at this time of year, which some sailors said made life a little easier during the exercises. "Usually, having the midnight watch is tough as you're straining to see contacts and obstructions in the water, but it doesn't get dark here — it just gets dim as the sun dips below the horizon for a few hours, and then it's sunrise again," said Ensign Jeremy Shockley, assistant chief engineer on the USS Roosevelt. "It has been interesting to work in the Arctic region but also surprisingly normal," Royal Navy Engineering Technician Cameron Warren said. "It has shown me that our training really does prepare us for anything. I have enjoyed the surreal experience of being able to go on the upper deck at any time of day or night as it's always light outside." The US Navy said it notified Russia's Ministry of Defense about the Barents exercise on May 1 to "avoid misperceptions, reduce risk, and prevent inadvertent escalation." Source: US Navy Russia's Northern Fleet, which maintains the country's naval strategic nuclear forces, has its headquarters and numerous bases in the Murmansk region on the Barents. The Murmansk region borders Norway, a NATO member that has watched Russian military activity in the region warily and called for more support from NATO allies. The Barents Observer, a Norwegian news outlet based near that border, reported in early May that Russia has made significant investments in military infrastructure in the region, much of it to support the submarine force that Moscow has been rebuilding over the past two decades. Russia said on May 4 that its Northern Fleet began monitoring the US and British ships. In the days after they entered the Barents, Russia announced its own naval exercises, which appeared to involve live-fire training, in the area. Russia has the world's longest Arctic coastline and gets roughly one-quarter of its GDP from activity in the region. Russia's Ministry of Defense said that on the "eve of May 6," three small anti-submarine ships sailed from the city of Polyarny to conduct "planned combat training activities in the Barents Sea." With minesweepers leading the way, ships from the Northern Fleet's search and strike group began a "test tactical exercise to search for and destroy a mock enemy submarine," with air support from the fleet, including an Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft, the Ministry said. The Ministry's release, published on May 7, said Russian sailors would also conduct signals training, to work on joint maneuvering of ships, as well as training on damage control for emergency personnel. "At the final stage of the exercise, which will last several days, anti-submarine sailors of the Northern Fleet plan to perform a number of combat training exercises, including torpedo firing," the release said.
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