I wrote recently about rising tensions in the Middle East – where American naval forces are conducting joint exercises with the United Kingdom and the French Republic in the Strait of Hormuz. This narrow passageway between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman – 21 miles wide at its narrowest point – handles a third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and 20 percent of its oil, making it one of the most critical global commercial chokepoints in the entire world.
Western allies are hoping their “flex” will deter the Islamic Republic of Iran from ramping up its “tanker war” against ships bound for America – while at the same time expanding enforcement of Washington’s oil embargo of this theocratic regime.
Today, we turn our attention to another key global chokepoint – the Skagerrak, a strait south of Norway which connects the North Sea to the Kattegat and the entranceways to the Baltic. The Skagerrak was recently traversed by the largest warship in the world – the USS Gerald R. Ford – a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier making its first “combat deployment.”
The ship’s visit to the Norwegian port of Oslo marked “the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier has visited Norway in 65 years,” according to a news release from the U.S. Navy.
Over 1,100 feet long and displacing 100,000 tons, the Gerald R. Ford – the lead ship in its class – is manned by 2,600 naval personnel. A no-fly zone has been established above the carrier, while unauthorized ships have been ordered to stay at least half a mile away from the vessel.
“This is Norway’s security,” Norwegian defense minister Bjørn Arild Gram said in the U.S. Navy release. “It is a clear expression of the security guarantees we have through NATO, not least the close cooperation and partnership we have with the United States.”
American personnel echoed those sentiments …
“Norway is a strategic partner in the continued efforts to maintain a secure and stable Arctic and North Atlantic region that benefits global order,” U.S. rear admiral Erik J. Eslich added. “We are committed to our NATO Ally and fostering our strong relationship built on a foundation of shared values, experiences, and vision.”
As part of all this “fostering,” the Gerald R. Ford has been conducting “joint and combined training, exercises, and operations to help reduce maritime security risks associated with increased activity in the high north,” according to the release.
“Our persistent presence in Europe is in accordance with our international commitments and agreements and is necessary to reassure our allies and partners of our commitment to collective defense,” the release concluded.
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Not surprisingly, Russia was unhappy with these “demonstrations of power.”
“There are no issues in the north that require a military solution, nor issues that require outside intervention,” Russia’s embassy spokesman told AFP. “Considering that Oslo admits that Russia poses no direct military threat to Norway, such shows of force seem illogical and harmful.”
Russia is particularly upset that Finland – a Nordic nation with which it shares an 830-mile border – just joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) last month. Sweden – which lies between Norway and Finland – is also seeking NATO membership. Norway is a founding member of this Cold War-era alliance. Just last month, in fact, Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre referred to his nation as “NATO’s eyes and ears in the north” in an interview with Politico.
According to Støre, Russia has recently shown “readiness to take more risks” in connection with alleged “intelligence gathering” operations in Nordic waters.
“This threat is still relevant,” Støre said.
Maybe so, but Støre’s people are acutely aware of the potential for these naval drills to enrage unpredictable Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
“I don’t know, but now we have teased Putin even more,” Droebak native Laila Wilhelmsen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, according to The Associated Press. “It’s scary, I think.”
Russian-American relations have collapsed in the aftermath of last February’s Russian invasion of Ukraine. While I oppose unprovoked aggression, there is some critical context omitted by Western media.
In 2014, the United States orchestrated the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected government – joining unseemly allies (including the Nazis) for the purpose of overthrowing pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. In Yanukovych’s place, America installed an American diplomat fresh out of Hillary Clinton’s state department.
Thankfully, here at FITSNews nothing is censored … we share information from all perspectives, offering our best assessment and always extending our microphone to those with other views.
One thing is clear: Whether Americans are aware of the true roots of this conflict or not, they are souring on it in increasing numbers. According to the latest data from Brookings, there has been a “marked weakening of Americans’ support” for the proxy conflict – especially the billions of fiat dollars Biden is pumping into the nation’s defense.
Which brings me to the bottom line: Whether it is this flashpoint, the one in the Middle East or the one in Taiwan, America’s neoconservative political leaders continue to advance costly policies aimed at inviting broader conflicts with our top geopolitical rivals, China and Russia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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