US marines to deploy to Norway

US marines to deploy to Norway

Norwegian troops on exercise. Source: Flickr

 

Norway says it will allow 330 US military personnel to be deployed to its territory for a trial period next year, representing a shift from the peacetime policy of Norway, which shares a long Arctic border with Russia. Traditionally the Nato member has prohibited foreign troops from being stationed in Norway.

Before joining Nato in 1949, Oslo eased Russian fears by pledging not to allow foreign troops to be stationed on its territory so long as Norway was not attacked or threatened.

This pledge was later amended to allow international troops to conduct exercises in Norway.

Last week, Russian warships, including its lone, 35-year-old aircraft carrier, sailed past Norway on their way to Syria.

Meanwhile, Finland has increased its military ties with the US and the Kremlin has warned of “consequences” if Sweden joined Nato. The US marines would be stationed for a trial period from January at the Vaernes base to the east of Trondheim, said Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide.

“This US initiative is welcome and also fits well within ongoing processes in Nato to increase exercises, training and interoperability within the alliance. The defence of Norway is dependent on allied reinforcements, and it is crucial for Norwegian security that our allies come here to gain knowledge of how to operate in Norway and with Norwegian forces,” Soereide said.

She has previously expressed concern about Russian military activity since the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and the Moscow’s backing for eastern Ukrainian separatists.

The US already stores significant quantities of military equipment in Norwegian caves and tunnels dug into mountains.

Russia’s Oslo embassy reacted with surprise to the news. “Taking into account multiple statements made by Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway, we would like to understand why Norway is so much willing to increase its military potential, in particular through the stationing of American forces in Vaernes,” spokesman Maxime Gourov told AFP.

Critics in Oslo have questioned whether Norway should be drawn into a renewed Cold War-style confrontation between the US and Russia. Retired Norwegian army commander Jacob Borresen said the planned deployment “sends negative signals eastwards”. He told broadcaster NRK that the move could create a Cold War-style “confrontation zone” on Norwegian territory.

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