On March 9, Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned U.S. Ambassador to Norway Marc Nathanson for comparing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to Germany’s invasion of Norway in 1940.
Nathanson made his comments on March 1 at the Kirkenes Conference, an international conference on cooperation in the Barents Region held annually in northern Norway. He said:
“Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine a year and seven days ago reminds me of another event in world history. On April 9, 1940, Hitler launched an unprovoked invasion of Norway 82 years ago.”
Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova spokeswoman responded:
"He made absolutely abominable and insulting remarks about Russia and the leadership of our country on the sidelines of the Kirkenes Conference, comparing Russia's special military operation in Ukraine with … ‘Hitler's invasion of Norway in 1940’. … This was an example of more than just political arrogance, extreme ignorance, and blasphemy.”
Zakharova is wrong: both the 1940 invasion of Norway by Hitler’s Germany and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia were acts of unprovoked aggression against sovereign states.
Here are some of the similarities between the two invasions.
The aggressor invaded from several directions and landed troops near the capital.
On April 9, 1940, Germany attacked Norway from the south, west and northwest. Advance detachments of German troops occupied six major Norwegian ports, from the capital Oslo northward to Narvik. “At the same time, a single parachute battalion (the first ever employed in warfare) took the Oslo and Stavanger airfields, and 800 operational aircraft overawed the Norwegian population,” Encyclopedia Britannica wrote.
The Wehrmacht, Germany’s armed forces, planned to overwhelm the Norwegian defenders quickly, before resistance could be organized.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine from the north, east and south. At the same time, an elite Russian paratroop unit tried to seize Hostomel Airport, located 10 kilometers from the capital Kyiv. Russian airborne troops were set to assault the capital and seize the government’s headquarters “no later than the evening of Saturday, 26 February 2022.”
The Russian army planned to capture Kyiv in a matter of days, according to The New York Times:
“Russian invasion plans, obtained by The New York Times, show that the military expected to sprint hundreds of miles across Ukraine and triumph within days. Officers were told to pack their dress uniforms and medals in anticipation of military parades in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.”
The invaders came as "brothers."
In 1940, the German forces that occupied Norway declared that Norwegians and Germans had special ties as Nordic brothers. Despina Stratigakos, a vice provost and professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, put it this way:
“The Nazis considered the invasion of Norway to be a homecoming: they claimed that Germans had originated in the North and were finally returning, making the land their own again.”
Since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2014, Russian officials and propaganda have repeatedly claimed that Kyiv is a Russian city, that Ukrainians were artificially created within the Russian people, and that Ukrainians and Russians are brothers—or even one people, as Putin stated in July 2021:
“I said that Russians and Ukrainians were one people—a single whole. These words were not driven by some short-term considerations or prompted by the current political context. It is what I have said on numerous occasions and what I firmly believe.”
A local collaborator was waiting for the aggressor.
Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian fascist and founder of the National Union party, was awaiting the German military’s arrival in Norway. As Encyclopedia Britannica recounted, “At a meeting with Adolf Hitler in December 1939, Quisling urged a German occupation of Norway; after the German invasion of April 1940, he proclaimed himself head of the government.”
Quisling subsequently served as the “puppet leader” of Germany’s occupation government. In February 1942, he was appointed "Minister President" under German Reichskommissar Josef Terboven. “Quisling” has since come to mean “traitor” or “collaborator.”
In Ukraine, Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of Ukraine’s pro-Russian Opposition Platform—For Life (OPFL) party and a personal friend of President Vladimir Putin, was awaiting Russian troops in Kyiv.
Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian online newspaper, wrote last month: “As far as a month before the Russian invasion, one influential member of the OPFL seemed to joke that Medvedchuk was ‘just waiting for Putin.’"
Fedor Venislavsky, the Ukrainian president's representative to the country’s constitutional court, said in April 2022 that Medvedchuk was supposed to become Russia’s puppet president of Ukraine, had a blitz Russian invasion succeeded.