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How Norway lost control of its own secret $500 million arctic naval base

05.04.2015  |  19:30

In 2008, the Norwegian parliament decided to shut down the base amid a restructuring of the country's navy.

In 2008, the Norwegian parliament decided to shut down the base amid a restructuring of the country's navy. The way they decided to go about it was unusual, though. Norway put the base for sale in 2011 on a Norwegian online auction site (link in Norwegian), describing the site-fairly honestly-as "a unique property where ideas can be realized."

The sale price was a pitiful 105 million krona, or $18 million at the time. But even that could not be achieved and the base was sold to a group of Norwegian oil drilling companies for just $5 million, or 1% of its building costs. The new owners then rented the site to Russian research vessels, including what AFP describes as "seismic survey ships reportedly linked to state-owned energy giant Gazprom."

The area around the North Pole is subject to many competing ownership claims-and some think it could be the next Crimea. At a time of increased Russian military activity-including suspected sea incursions into the territory of its Scandinavian neighbors-the whole affair has not gone down well. A former vice admiral who was in charge of Norway's northern forces told AFP:

We sold the only base worthy of the name that we had up there. It's pure madness. We are the only country along with Russia to have a permanent presence in the Barents Sea, where we share a common border. Obviously our navy should be stationed there, including our submarines. If the ships aren't there where they are needed, they might as well be scrapped altogether.

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