World

US To Station Troops In Norway To Bolster NATO Border

| by Zach Cohen

Beginning in January 2017, a limited rotational force of 330 US Marines will be stationed in Norway, which shares a 122-mile border with Russia.

US and Norwegian officials celebrated the move, which they say will "have positive implications," according to CNN. 

Norwegian defense minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said in a statement, "The US initiative... is highly welcome, and will have positive implications for our already strong bilateral relationship."

Maj. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, commander of the Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, said that the move "would certainly enhance this relationship and our ability to operate together."

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According to Press TV, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Oslo, Maxime Gourov, said, "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."

Vaernes is about 600 miles from the Russian border. 

Norway has enjoyed a privileged relationship with Russia among their NATO allies. "The policy of non-stationing (of foreign troops), which even withstood the test of the Cold War, has always been an advantage for Norway as a partner over other NATO countries," Gourov said.

NATO announced in July the deployment of four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to prevent what it called "Russian incursion."

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According to The Local, Russia conducted an exercise in March 2015 that rehearsed an invasion of Norway. A report called "The Coming Storm" claims that "the scenario included the speedy seizure of northern Norway, the Åland islands..., the Swedish island of Gotland and the Danish island of Bornholm." 

The author of the report, former Economist reporter Edward Lucas, suggests that if Russia invaded a Baltic state, they could "reach the coast in a matter of hours," allowing them to secure their claim before NATO had time to respond. 

"We are seeing increased complexity in Russian exercises in our region," Søreide said at the time. 

Heather Conley, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Europe Program said, "Now that we have a very new security context with Russia, it now makes sense to rethink what is needed."

In February, The Local reported that US Marines had begun storing tanks, artillery, and other equipment in Norwegian caves used during the Cold War. The US military began using the caves in 1981, but transferred them to Norway after tensions with Russia eased.

The caves are now back in active use. According to Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, the caves hold enough equipment to support around 15,000 marines.

Sources: CNN, Press TV, The Local (2) / Photo credit: Torbjørn Kjosvold/Forsvaret via The Local

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