NATO's Northern Flank: The Growing Soviet Threat

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NATO's Northern Flank: The Growing Soviet Threat

May 1, 1979 26 min read Download Report
Jeffrey G.
Senior Fellow and Director of Government Finance Programs

(Archived document, may contain errors)

.I a2 May 1, 1979 NATO's NORTHERN FLANK THE GROWING SOVIET THREAT INTRODUCTION In recent months, Denmark and-Norway-two of the countries comprising NATO's Northern Flank--have become greatly alarmed by the increased Soviet presence.,in the Nordic region. This presence has.been gradually but steadily building over the past decade until it now represents a con s tant reminder of Soviet military power. Current agitation among the Scandinavian leadership can be traced to recent, overt Soviet military activity in North Europe apparently designed as much for demonstrating the U.S.S.R.'s ex panding dominance of the re gion as for improving military pre paredness Serious interest in the increased activity of the Soviet Union arose in early 1978, as, one by one, the countries along the northern tier of Europe felt both subtle and overt Soviet pressures.

In mid-April, prel iminary Soviet naval exercises commenced in the Baltic. Soviet naval exercises have been held annually in the Baltic Sea for some years. It has not escaped Scandinavian notice, how- ever, that each year the maneuvers seem to take place closer to Western E u ropean territory than the year before 1978, the Soviets staged a large-scale marine landing on the island of Osel (100 miles east of Gotland) that was later declared to be the largest amphibious landing ever held in the Baltic by the U.S.S.R At the end of June During mid-1978, Soviet air activity also increased. Sweden a non-aligned Scandinavian power, began complaining about Soviet violations of Swedish air space. And NATO-member Denmark reported that U.S.S.R. military aircraft were violating Danish air s p ace at 2 least once a month. One senior Danish military official commented at the time We are constantly scrambling fighters It 1 Meanwhile, in July 1978, the Soviet Defense Minister, Marshal Dmitri Ustinov, visited Finland for talks with Finnish leaders F inland, though ostensibly a neutral country, has assumed an accomodating position toward the Soviet Union ever since its signing of a friendship and mutual assistance treaty with the U.S.S.R. in the 1940s. Nevertheless, few Nordic officials were prepared w hen in September stories began leaking out that during his visit Marshal Ustinov had twice proposed that Finland and the Soviet Union hold joint military maneuvers If true (the Finnish government quickly denied the stories it portended the most serious th r eat to Finland's neutrality since the 1961 Fenno-Soviet Note Crisis when the Soviet Union had strongly proposed "consultations, in accordance with the Finnish-Soviet Treaty on Friendship, Co-operation and MutualAssistance,on measures for the defense of th e borders of the two countries against the' threat of armed aggression on the part of West Germany and states allied with it Officials were also not soothed by the news in November that Finland had reportedly agreed to purchase Soviet-produced surface-to-a i r missiles in the coming year when Soviet commercial ships, in transit through Norwegian waters began breaking the international rules of "innocent passage" by making prolonged halts in Norwegian territory. Further straining Norwegian-Soviet relations, in late August a Soviet navy TU-16 BADGER bomber crashed on the Norwegian island of Hopen located south east of Spitsbergen) in the Norwegian Sea. The Norwegian govern ment refused to turn over the plane's flight recorder to the Soviets without first inspect i ng it The upshot of all this Soviet activity has been a heightened sense of alarm on the part of NATO's Northern Flank members and Denmark have long sought to tread the thin line between their Norway felt the Soviet Union's pressure starting in mid-summer Norway NATO commitments and their low-key relationship yith the- Sq~i-~t_-y 1 Aviation Week Space Technology, November 13, 1978, p 49. See also Drew Middleton East Block Activity Aladng Denmark," The New York Times December 6, 1978, p. 10 Defense Foreign A ffairs Daily is extremely useful for supplying on-going information on Soviet activity in the Nordic region Quoted in Eugene Kozicharow So'kLet Buildup in Baltic Troubles Danes 2. Quoted in Max Jakobson, Finnish Neutrality (New York: Praeger Publishers 19 6 8), p 70. The announced reason for the submission of the October 1961 note was the military threat from a revanchist Gemany operating under the cloak of NATO. Under Article I1 of the Treaty, Finland is obligated to consult with the U.S.S.R in the event of a threat of military attack" from Germany 3 Union. Now, however, they find themselves worried that perhaps this low profile won't be enough to guarantee their security.

Norway, for example, has always banned the full participation of West German troops in NATO military exercises held on Norwegian territory. However, in November 1978, the Norwegian Defense Association--a group of citizens concerned about defense matters suddenly began ea.lling for allowing German troops to take part in NATO maneuvers on No r wegian soil. This in itself suggests the seriousness with which some elements of the population take recent Soviet activities A GEOSTRATEGIC OVERVIEW OF THE NORTHERN FLANK3 The land area comprising NATO's Northern Flank runs some 1680 miles--from the Nort h Cape of Norway down to the lower border of the West German province of Schleswig-Holstein. The sea area of the Northern Flank is even more extensive, encompassing the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, the Baltic Approaches, the Baltic Sea and a major portion of the North Atlantic.

The northernmost area of Norway--Finnmark--is the only NATO territory directly abutting the Soviet Union. Finnmark's border with the U.S.S.R. is some 120 miles long. Finnmark is an extremely isolated region with a very small populat ion, located well within the Arctic Circle. Norway's only rail line running north from Oslo terminates at Bodo, 720 miles short of the Soviet frontier. The major road that connects North with South Norway can be kept open in winter only through extensive and continuous snow-clearing operations.

The regionls strategically exposed position undoubtedly contributes to the Norwegian decision to maintain only a nominal military presence there. Only one regular battalion of Norwegian soldiers is stationed at the border in Finnmark, and this is backed up by a single brigade group at Bardufoss.

Just to the east of Finnmark lies Soviet territory--the Kola Peninsula. On this peninsula is located the city of Murmansk, home port for the Soviet Northern Fleet also compr ising the bases at Severomorsk and Polynarnii) is the largest naval base in the world. From here the 60 major surface The Mumansk naval complex 3. On the geographical and military aspects of the Northern Flank, see John Erickson The Northern Theater: Sovi e t Capabilities and Concepts Strategic Review, Vol. 4 (Summer 19761, pp. 67-82; and General Sir John Sharp, Commander in-Chief, Allied Forces Northern Europe The Northern Flank lecture delivered to the Royal United Services Institute, 24 March 1976, subseq u ently published in the RUSI Journal, December 1976. sea Svalb ard I Atlantic Ocean Ice1 nd Q rth Pole Greenland THE NORTHERN FLANK 5 combatants, 171 submarines, and ;400Lplus other naval vessels of the Northern Fleet regularly sortie. Protection for the s trategically important Murmansk complex is furnished by a network of some six teen military airfields Two Soviet motorized rifle divisions are deployed at full readiness in the northern part of the peninsula.

One is emplaced only a short distance from the Norwegian border.

The other is somewhat further south, being aligned with the Finnish border in such a way that Its axis of advance in wartime would take it through Finnish Lapland into northern Norway. Six lower readiness divisions are situated on the Ko la Peninsula as well. In addition to all of these forces, an amphibious-trained regiment of naval infantry is based only seven miles from the Norwegian border, at Pechenga (the former Finnish port of Petsamo).

At the other end of NATO's Northern Flank lie Denmark and the West German province of Schleswig-Holstein. Denmark sits astride the Baltic Approaches, Its major islands of Fyn (Funen) and Sjaelland Zealand) separating the navigable waters of the Kattegat Strait into two major passageways--Store Baelt (Great Belt) and Oresund The Sound Deployment of Danish forces is determined by the diversity of Denmark's territorial responsibilities. Three of Denmark's five armored infantry brigades are stationed on the Jutland Peninsula for support of the West Germa n ' 6th Armored Infantry Division in its defense of Schleswig-Holstein. The other two are based on Zealand on which the Danish capital, Copenhagen, is located. A final battalion .group is stationed on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic, some ninety miles to the east The Baltic Sea extends from the Gulf of Bothnia in the north and Gulf of Finland in'the east, to the Jutland Peninsula in the west. It is a relatively shallow sea the water depths in its western part seldom exceeding 100 feet. Warsaw Pac t forces rim the Baltic in strength on the south.

Red Banner fleet is not a part of the forces of the Northern theater of operations" but rather a part of the forces of the Western "theater of operations This Soviet Baltic fleet, though smaller than its No rthern counter part, is still formidable, with an average strength of some 55 major surface combatants and 30 sub marines. Other Soviet naval bases in the Baltic Sea include The headquarters for the Soviet 4 Digest, 1 December 1978, p. 5 source to source. The 197

-1979 Military Balance (London: IISS for example gives average strength figures of 55 and 120 respectively, for the first two categories cited above The figmes on Northern Fleet naval strength are taken from Intelligence It should be noted that fi gures vary from 6 Baltysk (the fleet's largest'.operating base Kronstadt, and Leningrad. The Red Banner Fleet is supported in the Baltic by the Polish and East German navies. Warsaw Pact ground forces in northern East Germany and Poland include fourteen a rmy divisions one airborne) and substantial amphibious forces--a Soviet naval infantry regiment, a Polish sea-landing division, and elements of an East German rifle division trained for amphibious warfare.

West of the Jutland Peninsula sits the North Sea, a shallow body of water whose main basin has sides roughly 400 miles long.

On the west it is bounded by the United Kingdom. On the sout h and east, Belgium, the Netherlands, West Germany, Denmark, and Norway mark its edge. It is this sea that ships carrying supplies for NATO would have to last traverse in order to reach the major Western European ports.

Above the North Sea lies the Norweg ian Sea, known for the frequency of its storms. Its boundaries are marked by Norway on the east, Iceland and Greenland on the west, and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard on the north. The western entrance to the Norwegian Sea is called the Greenland-I c eland-United Kingdom Gap. One of its two direct passages from the Atlantic--the Denmark Strait--is situated above the Arctic Circle. The other, shallower direct passage is dotted in'its central and southern parts by the Faeroes,Shetland, and Orkney Island chains. The Greenland Iceland-United Kingdom Gap possesses a major strategic value for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact,since its passages are the normal approaches to and exits from the Murman Coast and, specifically, the Soviet naval complex at Murmansk. S oviet naval forces from the Northern Fleet readily traverse the waters of the Norwegian Sea.

NATO forces fronting on the Norwegian Sea in northern Scotland and Norway- are augmented by aircraft operating out of the United States air base at Keflavik, Icela nd and by ships from the U.S. Second Fleet cruising in northern waters SOVIET POLITICAL STRATEGY IN THE NORDIC AREA There are political, military, and economic components to the Soviet Union's strategy in the Nordic area. The first two com ponents are, ho w ever of paramount importance in explaining recent Soviet mane.uveriag in the North behind her heightened military maneuvering is entirely compre hensible at first glance: to unhinge Norway, Denmark, and Iceland from the Atlantic Alliance. The Soviet Union hopes to accomplish this by so demonstrating Soviet military dominance of the region that these countries will seek accomodation with it. Despite what one might think, this could well occur The U.S.S.R.'s political strategy '7 Since 1945, the Scandinavian region, because of its proximity to the Soviet Union, has been extremely careful of its relationship with the superpower to the east. For example, Finland maintains its existence as a neutral country by generally tilting toward the U.S.S.R. in its governm e nt policies. Sweden, on the other hand guards her neutral status through the maintenance of a strong armed forces and with the hope that if a Soviet attack comes, NATO will come to her aid avoid unnecessarily antagonizing the Soviet Union, despite their m e mber ship in NATO. The Norwegian (and to a large extent, the Scandinavian position was accurately portrayed three years ago by Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund. He commented And Norway and Denmark go out of their way to Norway's security positio n is, to a large degree, a function of the global balance and of developments in the general relationship between the superpowers Due to the exposed strategic position--at the cross roads of the superpowers' strategic interests--Norway has consistently bee n an.advocate of arms contro1,reduced tensions and reciprocal restraint. Norwegian security in terests are such as to demand top priority for East-West negotiations and a policy of negotiated restraint In the nuclear age we see no alternative to a policy o f negotiation. 5 A good example of Norwegian and Danish restraint is the "base policy" that each maintains. Both countries refuse to allow the per manent stationing of foreign military forces or nuclear warheads on their territories during peacetime. The N o rwegian base policy declared in a February 1949 note to the Soviet Government), the more carefully-wrought of the two, is conditional in nature, since it applies only as long as Norway is not "attacked or subject to threats of attack. I' The Danish base p o licy, though less-of f icially declared, has so far been-jusf as effective in avoiaing Soviet displeasure. In addition to its base policy, Norway enforces a low military profile in North Norway, refusing to permit allied training exercises in Finnmark or t o permit allied military aircraft to fly further east 0ver:itsterritory than 24 degrees East, some 130 miles from the Soviet frontier I 5. Knut Frydenlund The Security of Eiorway and the Atlantic Alliance The Danish base policy, compared to that of Norway , appears less well Atlantic Conununity Quarterly (Summer 1976 p. 207 6. reasoned and less clearly conceived as a security policy instrument; it skems to be more an incidental outcome of a domestic political game.

Denmark jointed NATO, the Danish foreign m inister stated in the parliament that NATO membership would not be followed by the stationing of allied forces in peacetime. However, the policy as stated was not clearly conditional, as was Norway's and it was not part of an official note sent to the Soviet Government Erik Beukel, Norway's Base Policv: Historia Interplay Between International Security Policy and Domestic Political Needs Washington D.C University, 1977 p. 3 Before Center for Strategic f International Studies, Georgetown 8 In Ice l and, the presence of a strong Communist party plays to the Soviets' advantage. During Iceland's "Cod War" with Great Britain' over fis.hing rights, the Icelandic Communists encouraged national anger in an attempt to pull the country out of NATO. At the pr esent time, the Communists continue to advocate the closing down of the United States' air base at Keflavik as the first step in withdrawing from the Alliance.

NATO's chief political worry about recent Soviet military maneuvering is that it will so success fully demonstrate Soviet con trol of the Nordic region that the Alliance's northern member states will find it necessary to loosen their present ties. Given the region's l6ng interest in neutrality and the relative strength of pacifist sentiment among the population, such a reaction is not entirely improbable SOVIET MILITARY STRATEGY IN THE NORDIC AREA The area of North Europe is of immense military importance to the Soviet Union. The Soviets do not consider the area a "flank of the more important Central F ront, as do the United States and its NATO allies. Instead, the Soviet Union considers the area a theater of operations" significant enough to be one of the six operational branches of the Soviet Armed Forces General Staff's Operations Directorate The mas sive expenditure of money and material on the Murmansk naval complex is a demonstration of the Soviet Union's understanding of the region's strategic importance.

There are a number of factors that explain the U.S.S.R.'s increasing interest in North Europe. First, the Murman Coast is one of the Soviet Union's most vulnerable coastlines. Unlike other parts of the Soviet coast, the Murman Coast has no practical buffer the Barents Sea being easily accessible from the Atlantic. American submarines can approach this coastline with much less chance of detection. Second, Murmansk is the only major Soviet port with ready access in wartime to open water.

Egress from Baltic ports is restricted, since ships must move through Denmark's Skagerrak and Kattegat straits.

Similarly, the only exit for Black Sea ports is via the,.


In the Pacific, Soviet ships homeported in the vicinity of Vladivostok, on the Sea of Japan, are hemmed in by the Japanese island chain 8 7. Erickson The Northern Theater: Soviet Capab ilities and Condepts pp 67-68 8. Captain Gerald E..Synhorst, U.S. Navy Soviet Strategic Interest in the Maritime Arctic United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 99 (May 19731 p 90. 9 Third, Murmansk is a port well-suited for the basing of submarine s since it is situated within easy operating distance of"NAT0 lines of communication. And fourth, the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea have become useful operating areas for Soviet ballistic missile sub marines since the SS-N-8 with its 4800 mile range wa s introduced into the fleet in 1973.

For all of these reasons, the Soviet Union sees the entire Northern European area as a vital part of its defensive perimeter. Just as in its land strategy for postwar Europe, the U.S.S.R. first sought to provide a buffe r zone along its western boundary by occupying and controlling the Eastern European states so in its maritime strategy for North Europe, as its naval capability has grown, it has sought to erect a sea-based buffer zone that stretches from the Murman Coast north into the Barents Sea and far west into the Norwegian Sea. The Soviets understand the advantages of a defense in depth. Therefore they have endeavored to extend their operational control over northern waters, while preventing intrusion by foreign nav a l vessels into waters which they consider vital to their own security. Thus, in the Arctic, the Soviets continue to consider the Siberian Seas (Kara Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi) territorial waters As a re sult, they have not only denied American ic e breakers pemlssion to pass through straits considered to be within their territorial waters, but they have also issued instructions to defense forces to destroy any submerged submarines found violating U.S.S.R. boundaries SVALBARD AND THE BARENTS SEA In t h e Barents Sea area, the Soviets have attempted to keep outside forces from gaining a foothold by asserting their legal prero gatives. Norway's Svalbard archipelago is a case in point. Norway was granted sovereignty over Svalbard (then called Spitsbergen) i n a 1920 treaty that was originally signed by nine pavers, including the United States, France, and eat Britain.9 Under this treaty all parties were allwed to "carry on there without impediment all maritime, industrial, mining and commercial operations on a footing of absolute equality.."lO that treaty, hhever, only Norway and the Soviet Union bothered to establish settlements on Svalbard. At the present time, the Soviet population on Spitsbergen (the main island of the Svalbard group outnunbers the Norweg ian population more than two to one In the years following the adoption of 9 contracting parties t9 Spitsbergen.

Printing Office, 1924 The treaty did not go into effect until 1924, when it was ratified by the Treaty Between The United States And Other Powers Relatincr Treaty Series, No. 686 (Washington, D.C U.S. Government 10. Article

3. Treaty, p 5. Article 10 gave "Russian nationals and companies the same rights as nationals of the contracting parties until the "Russian Government" could be recognized by the contracting parties. Treaty, p. 9.

Soviet government acceded to the treaty in 1935.

The 10 Maj.or and Warsaw Pact Force Dispositions Along NATOrs Northern Flank 6 B Soviet Fleet L. Headquarters (Northern Fleet Mz rmansk Red Banner Soviet Naval Bas'es Fleet--Kaliningrad Leningrad filitary District--(Soviet Forces Kola Peninsula 9 Divisions (2 in Category 1 I Readiness 1 Airborne Warsaw Pact Army Group Headquarters--Northern Group of Forces Legnica, Poland 2- 3 Sovi e t Divisions, 9 Polish Divisions 4 Tank, 1 Airborne 1 Amphibious a Group of Soviet Forces Germany Zossen-Whsdorf East Germany near Berlin presumably designated for Baltic area operations from this &oup 3 Soviet Divisions, 6 East German Divisions (2 Tank) 1 1 Coal mining is the principal activity on Spitsber n and the ostensible reason for the large Soviet presence there. Yet it is apparent that military considerations play a part in the Soviet activities on the island. In recent years, the Soviets have estab lished a helicopter base at their settlement of Barentsburg equipped with five thirty-man "civilian" helicopters, and have erected a sophisticated radio and television tower for the trans mission and interception of communications. And despite Norwegian s o vereignty over Svalbard, the Soviet settlements at Barentsburg and Prymaiden regularly refuse to honor Norwegian regulations particularly with regard to air traffic control and control of the use of radio transmissions. In one incident, after the Norwegia n airport at Longyearbyen was completed in 1975, the Soviets demanded that they be allowed to station twenty Aeroflot personnel there in order to handle their once-monthly flights, while only five Nor wegian personnel were needed to handle thrice-weekly SA S airline flights. Although Norway denied this excessive. demand, it eventually acceded to a compromise that allows "five or six men and equipment to remain at the airfield. Although none of the recent Soviet activities on. Spitsbergen have any outright mi l itary character, they do seem to skirt legality. Article 9 of the Spitsbergen treaty direct1 forbade the establishment of military bases in the archipelago. 15 To the east of Svalbard lies the Barents Sea. Here the Soviet Union has attempted to use its le g al prerogatives to accomplish two things deemed strategically important: 1) to effect a Soviet Norwegian condominium over the continental shelf in order to keep foreign oil companies from drilling for oil; and 2) to push their I continental shelf boundary as far west as possible.

The reasons for attempting to keep foreign oil companies out of the Barents Sea are largely military in nature. First, the Soviet Union fears that foreign oil rigs would be used by NATO forces as platforms for the passive monitori ng of Soviet naval activity. Second, it is concerned that the emplacement of such rigs would hamper the passage of their submarines from Murmansk to the Norwegian Sea by further canalizing the relatively shallow waters around the North Cape 11. Interestin gly enough, with twice the manpower (mor3 than 2000 peopleIr the Soviets only manage to mine about the same amount of coal each year as the Norwegians 12. Article

9. Treaty Relating to Spitsbergen, p. 9. 12 To effect this Soviet-Norwegian condominium, the Soviets would like to model a Barents Sea agreement on the 1968 Declaration on'the Continental Shelf of the Baltic Sea. Among other things this Declaration provided that 9. Parcels of the continental shelf of the Baltic Sea must not be given over for exp l oration, exploitation, and.other used to non-Baltic states, their nationals or firms 10. Participants of the Declaration will consult among them selves covering questions of mutual interest in connection with the use of the continental shelf of the Baltic Sea.13 Under such an agreement, Norway would be required to consult with the Soviet Union before proceeding with any oil drilling on the continental shelf, and fozeign oil companies would be entirely ex cluded from the area. Negotiations'on this matter ha ve not yet progressed in this direction.

The reason for the Soviet Union's desire to push their con tinental shelf boundary as far west as possible is also primarily military in nature. Soviet YANKEE-class submarines stationed at Murmansk must traverse the Barents Sea to get into the Atlantic.

In addition to this, Soviet DELTA-class submarines now use the Barents as an operating area. Thus, the U.S.S.R. has a need to control as large a'part of the Barents Sea as possible.

Formal negotiations on continental shelf boundaries first began at Norwegian request, following the visit of the Norwegian I Prime Minister to Moscow in 19

74. Both sides initally agreed to use the 1968 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf as their point of departure.14 since Norwa y insisted that the boundary line should be drawn equidistant between Norwegian and Soviet territory, while the Soviet Union argued for application of the "sector principle"--drawing the boundary line straight north from its &sternmost extemity to the' Po le.15 However, the two countries were soon at odds 13. Quoted in John C. Ausland Spitsbergen: Who's in Control?"

United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 104 (November 19781, p. 66.

The Baltic Declaration was signed by the U.S.S.R the German Democr atic Republic, and Poland 14 Article 6 (2) of the Geneva Convention states Where the same continental shelf is adjacent to the territories of two adjacent states, the boundary of the continental shelf shall be determined by agreement between them. In the absence of agreement, and unless another boundary line is justified by special circum stances, the boundary shall be Betermined,by application of the principle of equidistance Ibid footnote, p. 65 15. Strategic Interest .in the Maritime Arctic pp. 99-100.

For an excellent discussion. of the "sector principle see Synhorst Soviet C 13 The result of this boundary disagreement was the de facto establishment of a 144,000 square mile "grey zone," comprising the area circumscribed by the differing Norwegian and S o viet boundary lines. Within this zone, the Soviet Union uses implied threats of force to keep Norwegian vessels excluded. For example, in June 1976, Norway announced that a survey ship would be conducting seismic surveys in the disputed area. The Soviets i mmediately proclaimed that they would be holding missile tests in the area and warned all ships to stay clear. The Norwegian vessel was withdrawn.16 And in 1977, officers from a Soviet patrol boat stopped and boarded a Norwegian fishing trawler operating i n the "grey zone in direct contravention of the agreement that each country's fishing vessels be inspected in the disputed area only by its own patrol boats. Such actions have made the Norwegians much more cautious about allowing their shipping to enter t his disputed area NORWEGIAN SEA AREA The Norwegian Sea has been the site of intense Soviet naval activity ever since its first open-ocean exercises in 19

61. In Okean 1970, one of the two largest naval exercises so far held by the Soviet Navy, the central focus of the maneuvers was an attack by a mixed task force on a simulated NATO strike force deploying into the Norwegian Sea.17 And in the massive Vesna (Okean) 1975 the Norwegian Sea and the.North Atlanth to block lines of communication between North Ame r ica and Western Europe. This naval activity illustrates the Soviet Union's desire to both extend its wartime defense perimeter far enough out from the Murman Coast to keep U.S carrier striking forces out of range of major Soviet military and industrial ta r gets and to position its offensive forces across western shipping lanes so as to prevent early resupply of NATO's Central Front exercise, Soviet submarines set up a barrier between Iceland and I Norway is itself one of the important Soviet objectives in t h is area. At the beginning of any East-West hostilities, northern Norway, in particular, would be the object of Soviet attack 16. Ausland Spitsbergen: Who's in Control p 65. The Soviets had closed off a substantial portion of the zone to shipping for the s ame reason in 1975.

Sharp The Northern Flank p. 15 17. Erickson The Northern Theater: Soviet Capabilities And Concepts p. 75 Donald C. Daniel Trends and Patterns in Major Soviet Naval Exercises in Paul J. Murphy, ed Naval Power in Soviet Policy, Studies in Communist Affairs Volume Two (Washington, D.C U.S. Government Printing Office, 1978 pp. 225-226. 14 Because of its geographical position and its limited defensive capabilities, northern Norway would be almost indefensible in a conventional war, Seizure o f Finnmark and Troms would provide both an additional land buffer for the Soviet base at Murmansk and a staging area for air and naval forces covering Northern Fleet oper ations against NATO shipping in the Norwegian and North Seas.

And if the southern portion of Norway were taken, Belgium, Holland Denmark, and Germany would be isolated. The desirability of Norwegian bases could even lead the U.S.S.R. to launch a pre-emptive attack in the event of a severe East-West crisis. As John E r ickson pointed out the central front might not, indeed most probably would not, be countenanced by the political leadership in Moscow, pre-emption at sea and within the confines of the northern TVD may well be sanctioned, if only for reasons of an effecti ve defense of the Soviet base complexes."l8 It is worth observing that while pre-emption on NORTH SEA AREA The Soviets understand the importance of the North Sea to NATO.

All of the major continental Western European ports in the north excepting those in F rance) front on the North Sea Except for Central and North Norway, accessible from the Norwegian Sea, overseas trade can reach other natfons in the group /Belgium, the Nether lands, West Germany, and Denmark7 only throiigh the North Sea or by transshippin g overland. Thus, the wartime establishment of strong Soviet naval forces in the North Sea could seriously disrupt re supply efforts for 'the Central Front.

Soviet intelligence gathering in recent years has included naval inspections of Western European oi l drilling rigs and offshore gas pipe1ines.h the North Sea 1970s, ships from the Baltic fleet have regularly joined for maneuvers in the North Sea with those from the Northern Fleet.

This coordination between forces of two "theaters of operation demonstra tes the Soviet Union's expanding capability for operating in the North Sea In the Soviet naval exercises of the BALTIC SEA AREA Rapid seizure of the Baltic Approaches, particularly the major 18. Erickson, Op, Cit p 80. See also Major General J. L. Moulton Royal Marines (Ret The Defense of Northwest Europe and the North Sea,"

United states Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 97 (May 19711, p. 92 19. Moulton, Op. Cit p. 84. 15 Danish islands, is the key to Soviet strategy in the Baltic. With out control of the Skagerrak and the Kattegat and the channels separating Funen and Zealand from each other and from the mainland the Soviets would find their Red Banner Fleet bottled up in the Baltic. In such a case, the fleet would be unable either to augment the Norther n Fleet forces operating in the North Sea or to effectively outflank NATO's forward defenses on the Central Fr.ont The Soviet navy in the Baltic has recently been concentrating its efforts on thoroughly familiarizing its naval vessels with the waters of th e western Baltic and the Baltic Approaches have Soviet vessels increased their maritime surveillance of the Approaches, but Warsaw Pact naval units have significantly in creased their navigational training in Danish waters Not only SHORING UP THE NORTHERN F LANK In order to.-reverse the damage that recent Soviet activity in the. Scandinavian region has done to Norwegian and Danish confidence in NATO's ability to protect them, the Alliance is going to have to undertake a series of changes in its Northern Flan k policies.

These changes are.both political (involving measures to shore up confidence) and military in nature. The United States will be heavily involved in this process from the beginning. Not only does the United States provide a significant portion of the combat divisions deployed on NATO's Central Front and a major portion of the naval forces earmarked for NATO in the event of.war, but it furnishes many of NATO's senior commanders, including both the Alliance's highest army officer--the Supreme Allie d Commander Europe (SACEUR)--and one of its two highest naval officers--the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). As a major power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its influence on NATO policy is immense. Accordingly, the United States wil l have to be in the forefront on any changing of Northern Flank strategy.

First, NATO will have to demonstrate its renewed interest in the security problems of the Nordic area. Over the past decade more than one Northern European Commander has wondered alo ud if NATO's leaders were not so distracted by their concentration on the problems of the Central Front that they missed seeing the problems on their northern flank. The leadership of the Alliance would have to not only convince Norway and Denmark that th e y realize the growing Soviet threat exists in the North, but also that they have the will to effectively counter it. The most effective way of demonstrating NATO's renewed interest in the area would be the establishment of a high-visibility naval presence in those waters currently ex periencing heightened Soviet naval activity (the western Baltic and the Baltic Approaches NATO's current interest in conducting major training exercises in North Norway should be continued and even expanded. 16 Second, the All i ance should strive to establish better co ordination in the military command set-up for the Nordic area. At the present time, command responsbility for the Northern Flank region is split among several commanders: CINCHAN, who exercises control over the En g lish Channel and the southern North Sea SACLANT, who is responsible, among other things, for naval operations in northern European waters (the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, etc CINCENT, who exercises control over. air defenses for Schl eswig-Holstein, despite his primary responsibility for the Central Front; and CINCNORTH, the designated Northern European Commander. This fragmentation of command re sponsibility in the region makes good coordination absolutely essential.

Improvements in coordination should include the thorough staffing out of war plans for the employment of joint command task forces in areas where command responsibilities overlap (i.g., the North Sea).

In addition to joint planning, increased participction of forces from the various commands in joint training maneuvers should be carried out. This would insure that units of one command designated for operation in the region would become.familiar with working to gether with counterpart units from other commands assigned reg ional responsibilities.

Third, NATO should strengthen the military posture in the Nordic region. This can be accomplished in several ways 1) SACEUR should increase the number of-military units currently assigned to the Northern European Command. It should be noted that in peacetime, CINCNORTH has operational control over only the Norwegian air defense forces. All other AFNORTH forces, including the Danish air defense forces, remain under national control. Yet apart from this situation, the actual number of units specifically dedicated to the Command is too small. As just one example, the British commando group that trains in North Norway each winter is not dedicated to AFNORTH. CINCNORTH must compete with CINCENT and CINCSOUTH for the greater part of the fo r ces that would be needed to effectively defend the Northern Flank, since the allocation of available reinforcements is dependent upon SACEUR's determination of priorities. This situation should be remedied by the designation of additional forces to AFNORT H , particularly since the success ful defense of the Northern Flank is utterly dependent upon the timely arrival of ourside reinforcements units operating in northern waters. The establishment of a permanent U.S. Second Fleet carrier task force in the Gree n land-Iceland United Kingdom Gap area, although currently impossible due to carrier force constraints, would furnish needed protection to NATO's lines of communication and would provide strong additional air power in the event of hostilities At sea, SACLAN T should increase the number of "on call" naval 17 2) NATO should upgrade the logistics/support facilities in the Nordic region function of the volume of 'men and material that must be transported If reinforcements for the Northern Flank could be flown or t rucked into the combat zone with only minimal equipment, they could arrive more quickly and in greater numbers than if their heavy equipment had to be transported with them. With this point in mind SACEUR should argue for an increase in the prepositioning of the reinforcing units' heavy equipment, particularly in North Norway.20 In addition new airfields should be built to handle the volume of supplies that would be needed in the event of a conflict The rapidity of reinforcement is largely' a 3) NATO shoul d improve the level of training for all forces likely to be called upon to operate in the Northern Flank during wartime.

Naturally enough, Norwegian forces operating in the area north of Bodo exhibit a high state of winter warfare training. So do the Briti sh Marines of the 45 Commando Group, in large part because they train in Norway some seven weeks a year. The same cannot be said about the U.S. Marine Corps units designated for probable deploy ment to Norway in time of war been in North Norway for traini n g five times since late 1976, the amount of time spent in each training exercise (several weeks) has proved insufficient to accustom them to the severe Norwegian winter weather. The U.S. Marines' lack of experience and their antiquated and poorly-designed winter gear continue to hobble their effective ness during Norwegian maneuvers. These deficiencies can and should be corrected by more extensive on-site training Training is particularly critical in regard to North Norway.

Although U.S. Marine units have CONCLUSION It is readily apparent that the situation in NATO's Northern Flank is deteriorating, both politically and militarily. As Soviet pressure continues to increase in the Nordic region, the states in that region are going to be forced to reevaluate t heir existing political relationships with the U.S. and the U.S.S.R unless NATO acts quickly to counter this pressure. With Finland already accommodating itself to many Soviet policies and Sweden warning that the balance of power as it affects the securit y of Scandinavian is changing, Norway and Denmark will not long be able to maintain their ties to an Alliance that they see as unresponsive to the situation.

It is therefore necessary for NATO to take 'actions which will enhance the region's security. Beca use'if Norway and Denmark are forced to disengage from the Alliance, those NATO forces emplaced on 20. For a recent study on prepositioning in Europe, see U.S. Military Equipment Prepositioned in Euro1 Problems Remain (Washington D.C U.S. General Accounti n g Office, December 5, 1978). n 5 18 the Central Front could easily find themselves ou-flanked at the start of some future shuwdmn with the Warsaw Pact. Strengthening the Northern Flank might well prove difficult in the context of the continuing emphasis b y the NATO countries on East-West co operation, but it is central to the political cohesion of the Alliance and vital to the military effectiveness of NATO that it be done.

Jgffrey G. Barlow Policy Analyst i.


Jeffrey G.

Senior Fellow and Director of Government Finance Programs