Op-Ed By Sharon Hudson-Dean, Chargé d’Affaires, a. i.
Exercise Cold Response 2022 recently finished in northern Norway. An estimated three thousand U.S. Marines and other U.S. military personnel exercised alongside approximately 26,000 troops from 27 nations, a testament to the breadth and depth of our Alliance and our defense cooperation with our partners. I had the pleasure of joining the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs State Secretary Petersson and the Polish and Estonian Ambassadors to Norway on a visit to the exercise.
We saw first-hand why Cold Response has been a critical part of U.S., Norwegian, and NATO readiness since 2006. And while meeting with U.S. Marines, we offered our sincerest condolences on the tragic loss of their team members in the recent crash.
Seeing first-hand the extensive planning and execution of this exercise was both awe-inspiring and reassuring. Our multinational defenders are interoperable, focused and fully prepared in the event of any threat to our safety. Cold Response and other regularly scheduled military exercises ensure that our national and multinational capabilities are at the highest levels to defend our homelands.
Cold Response has a 16-year history, and this year’s Cold Response exercise was planned long before Russia invaded Ukraine. As part of standard procedure, Russia was notified of the exercise and invited to observe part of it, an invitation they declined.
This year, Cold Response took on heightened importance given the backdrop of Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked war in Ukraine. In direct violation of numerous international agreements, and despite multiple attempts to address Russia’s security concerns through diplomacy, Vladimir Putin chose to start a horrific war against Ukraine. His actions underscore the importance of our shared commitment to collective defense, strengthened through exercises such as Cold Response.
Putin’s invasion is an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy. He is undermining the rules-based international order that contributes to stability around the world, including in the high north. Putin flagrantly disregards our shared values, including the right of people to choose their own leaders, the right of nations to set their own foreign policies, and the basic international principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. He is causing incredible suffering and loss of life. Whole cities and villages in Ukraine have been destroyed. Millions have fled or are displaced.
The Kremlin’s heinous acts against Ukraine affect us all, striking at the core of our common humanity. The effects of Putin’s actions are being felt far from Ukraine’s border. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s top grain exporters, and Putin’s war of choice is raising food prices and exacerbating global hunger, including in the Middle East and Africa. Putin’s actions have resulted in hardships for Arctic populations as well.
And his actions directly harm Russia and the Russian people. The United States, Norway, and our Allies and partners for months said loudly that an invasion of Ukraine would result in proportionately strong economic sanctions on Russia. Putin had a clear choice to avoid or accept these consequences. He chose economic isolation and war over global integration and peace. As a result, tens of thousands of Russians have fled Russia since the invasion began and the government violently silences dissent and free media at home.
The United States, along with our allies and partners, stands with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. We will continue to work with our allies and partners, including our fellow Arctic nations, to uphold global norms and values and the rules-based international order. And we will continue to deepen and enhance our bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation with our allies and partners, including Norway. Working together as Allies, I know we can continue to make the world a safer place.