Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Norway trip photos, and how to sink an aircraft carrier

Anyone interested in more pics from my recent trip to Northern Norway should click the photo above and it should magically take you to a slide show.

We were climbing in the Lyngen area, and completely coincidently it came up in conversation at lunch today. I had been asked to give a speech on Finnish security policy to a group of visiting Dutch senior military officers. The Dutch dudes seemed to totally dig my speech, although I was somewhat aware that the hosts from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs had facial expressions that were inscrutable at best as I laid into Finnish security policy-making. Perhaps I won't be asked back... But that is by the by; at lunch after the discussion I was sitting next to two Dutch Naval officers, who before staff positions one had been a submariner and the other had captained a frigate. During the Cold War the Dutch had been integrated with British forces, particularly the Royal Marines and parts of the Royal Navy, in defending Northern Norway from the Soviets. Hence they knew exactly where Lyngenfjord was and informed me it's hard to get a submarine into! They also got quite nostalgic about the good old days of the Cold War and how great fun the big NATO exercise were up in the North. The submariner said he had "sunk" an American aircraft carrier on a number of occasions - (excuse the attempt at a Dutch accent) "Scho we schnuck in scho close you could reach out and open it up with a can opener!" The former frigate officer also said they had had great fun scaring the US navy by popping out of channels and fjords that the USN wouldn't try to navigate. He had nothing but respect for the USN when it came to fighting, but in peacetime exercises he said they were incredibly risk-averse - for example sailing all the way round Scotland to get in to the North Sea rather than going through the Straits of Dover where the bloody ferries wouldn't stop for them! Obviously America's NATO friends would take much delight in mercilessly exploiting these bureaucratic limitations when playing the enemy in exercises.

Lunch was both educational and great fun. Their other profound insight into European security policy was that the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy was screwed from the start because the British officer class was never going to have anything to do with something that is "so jolly common!" :-)

1 comment:

Quizbo said...

Great photos Toby! Interesting that some of those mountains appear to have a nearly identical geology to the mountains just outside of Reykjavik.

As for the timidity of the US military in peacetime exercises, I think it's a good thing to go along with a global military presence. Nobody needs any more incidents like Iran Air Flight 655 or the Ehime Maru.

With your Straits of Dover situation, my god, can you imagine the British press if the USN somehow managed to have an accident with a British ferry? I'd like to think the tabloids would come up with some novel puns, but if anyone died it would most likely just be pictures of people burning Uncle Sam in effigy.