In a massive show of force in the North Sea, NATO and non-NATO forces have met for anti-submarine warfare exercises in the face of increasing Russian military activity in the region.
The annual exercise, dubbed "Dynamic Mongoose," off the coast of Norway, involves 12 warships, four submarines, and military representatives from Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the US.
Exercises will include detecting and targeting live submarines in disputed northern waters that are increasingly the site of Russian military assets lurking under the sea.
Tensions between Russia and NATO nations have run high in recent years since the annexation of Crimea and Russian President Vladimir Putin's continued covert support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.
"Exercise Dynamic Mongoose is a great training opportunity," said Rear Admiral Brad Williamson, the US commander overseeing the exercises, in a press release this week.
According to Williamson, the exercises "allow us to further integrate with other NATO forces to enhance our interoperability and ability to effectively respond to potential submarine threats to our NATO allies."
Sweden, a regional ally of NATO and first-time participant in the exercises, detected suspected Russian submarines in its waters last summer, while Canada and other Arctic nations have intercepted Russian bombers flying too close to sovereign air space. And in April, the Finnish Navy dropped "low yield depth charges" into the waters near Helsinki after sensor nets detected a "possible underwater object."
"We strongly suspect that there has been underwater activity that does not belong there," Finnish Defense Minister Carl Haglund told told Finnish news agency STT. "Of course it is always serious if our territorial waters have been violated."
Exercise Dynamic Mongoose comes days after the ceremonial unveiling of the Russian navy's latest undetectable submarine, dubbed the "Krasnador." It is the fourth in a series of six upgraded diesel-electric Varshavyanka-class mammoth subs, which state media agencies in Russia have dubbed the "quietest in the world." Each member of the fleet, named after cities that have earned the honorary grade of "city of military glory," is armed with 18 torpedoes and eight surface-to-air Club missiles and are intended mainly for anti-shipping and anti-submarine missions, according to Russia Today.
While Reuters reports that American officials have said the latest exercises in the North Sea are not sabre-rattling military movements aimed at nearby Russia, a release from the Canadian Department of National Defense says it's part of "Canada's response to Russia's military aggression toward Ukraine."
Aboard the USS Vicksburg, the lead vessel in the exercise, US commander of the operation Rear Admiral Williamson told Reuters that the exercise is not a response to Russian action, but does bring "relevance" to the operation.
"Russia has a right to be at sea, just as we do," he said. "But the incidents we have seen are not in line with international regulations...and that's been the cause of concern."
The Arctic and northern seas continue to be a point of interest and dispute between Russia and its NATO rivals.
Vladimir Putin has thrown billions into military infrastructure in the Far North, while Canada, the US and other NATO countries bolster their Arctic warfare capabilities, even deploying military exercises to match Russian movements in the region.
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