LA MER DE BARENTS is not a welcoming place for visitors. “Frequent snowstorms … wiped out the country for hours,” wrote an unlucky British submariner sent there to snoop during the Cold War. “We were confronted with the bestiality of the spray that turned into ice before they even hit our faces. It is therefore not surprising that American warships have been kept clear of the sea since the mid-1980s – until their return last week.
Their presence is part of a constant northward creep of the NATO naval forces. In 2018, the alliance, joined by Sweden and Finland, organized Trident Juncture, its largest exercise since the end of the Cold War, in Norway. This involved the first deployment of an American aircraft carrier in the Arctic Circle in three decades. Western warships have been frequent visitors ever since. On May 1, a “surface action group” of two American destroyers, a nuclear submarine, a support ship and long-range maritime patrol aircraft, as well as a British frigate, exercised their skills in subhunter in the Norwegian Sea.