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The NATO Handbook

Norway and NATO
From small countries do mighty alliances grow explains the OpsRoom.

Norway has played an important role throughout NATO's history. In fact, Norway may lay claim to getting the ball rolling for NATO’s 1949 founding.

It happened shortly after the Second World War. Norway was quaking in fear. They knew the USSR was about to demand that they sign a non aggression pact with them. Stalin would also require right of access to the Norway coast.

The cowing of Norway, Britain warned Canada and America, ‘would involve the appearance and reality of Russia on the Atlantic and the collapse of the whole Scandinavian system. This would in turn prejudice the change of calling any halt to the relentless advance of Russia into Western Europe’.

In light of this danger, Britain, the United States, and Canada urged immediate action on an ‘Atlantic security system before Norway goes under’ and all of free Europe is threatened by Soviet marauding into the Atlantic.

Britain's Ally
Norway was near and dear to the British. During the Second World War, Norway transported about one-third of all supplies to Britain. Churchill considered the efforts of the 1,100 ships and 30,000 sailors under the Norwegian government in exile to equal in importance an army of one million men on the battlefield in Europe.

To understand the importance of this alliance created on 4 April 1949, one need only look to the word of Winston Churchill: 'Certainly in its early stages the Atlantic treaty achieved more by being than by doing. It gave renewed confidence to Europe, particularly to the territories near Soviet Russia and their satellites. This treaty was marked by a recession in the communist parties in the threatened countries, and by a resurgence of healthy national vigor in western Germany'.

Norway, of course, constituted the northern flank of NATO and, with Iceland, was closest to the entry channels into the Atlantic from the Soviet bases to the north on the Kola Peninsula held an especially sensitive geopolitical position. This reality made it imperative for Norway to place certain political limits on military activities. Thus its policy throughout the Cold War was to keep tensions in on their border as low as possible.