NATO warships return to the icy Barents Sea for the first time in a generation
May 10th 2020
THE BARENTS SEA is not a hospitable place for visitors. “Frequent snow storms … blotted out the land for hours on end,” wrote an unlucky British submariner sent there to snoop around during the cold war. “We faced the beastliness of spray which turned to ice even before it struck our faces.” It is no surprise, then, that American warships have kept away from the sea since the mid-1980s—until they returned last week.
Their presence is part of a steady northward creep by NATO naval forces. In 2018 the alliance, joined by Sweden and Finland, held Trident Juncture, its largest exercise since the end of the cold war, in Norway. That involved the first deployment of an American aircraft carrier in the Arctic Circle for three decades. Western warships have been frequent visitors since. On May 1st a “surface action group” of two American destroyers, a nuclear submarine, support ship and long-range maritime patrol aircraft, plus a British frigate, practised their sub-hunting skills in the Norwegian Sea.