"Our High North defense can be stronger with more funding. We need a battalion of enlisted soldiers in the region to guarantee that the advanced equipment that we have can be used," said Diesen, who suggested that future government defense reforms should include a shift from a conscription-based to a more professional military.
The level of Norwegian-Russian cross-border security cooperation has strengthened significantly since 2007. Col. Ivar Magne Sakserud, the head of Norway's Border Defense Department, visited Russia's Rybachiy peninsula on Oct. 1, becoming the first Norwegian military officer to be granted permission to enter this "closed area," which includes strategic military facilities, including Murmansk and Arkhangel.
"This vote of confidence proves that the relationship and cooperative climate between Norway and Russia is very good," Sakserud said.
The expanding contacts, both formal and informal, between key military branches of both militaries was evident in September, when the Norwegian Navy frigate KNM Otto Sverdrup visited Murmansk, the Northern Fleet's main base, to participate in the Barents Rescue 2009 exercises, which also involved military and civilian agencies from Sweden and Finland.
Meetings between Coast Guard, Border Guard and Land Forces from the two countries are currently running at two to three a year, with the most recent high-level meeting taking place Oct. 12 between Vice Adm. Nikolay Maksimov, the commander of Russia's Northern Fleet, and Lt. Gen. Bernt Brovold, the commander of the Norwegian Defense Force's new National Joint Headquarters in Bodø, which opened in Norway's Arctic region in August.