For ‘times of crisis and war’? Norway confirms US to double troops on its soil
The US will double the number of its Marines stationed in Norway, Oslo confirmed. Moscow has repeatedly warned that alliance’s build-up near its borders could worsen security situations in states where troops are stationed.
News of the US and Norway agreeing “to extend and increase the rotational training and exercises” by the United States Marine Corps in the country was announced by Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen.
“The arrangement” will continue beyond 2018 and the American unit may include up to 700 US Marines. Since January 2017, some 330 US Marines have been deployed in the Scandinavian country. Their arrival marked the first time that foreign troops had been stationed in the NATO member-state since the end of World War II.
The Norwegian authorities have also decided to add one more location for the training. In addition to Vaernes Air Station in central Norway, US Marines will now also be training at Setermoen camp in the north, which is the largest garrison in the country. US Marines could arrive there this autumn.
The announcement is in accordance with Norway’s plans to double the number of US troops on its soil, which was first mentioned in June this year. Back then, Oslo stressed that “in times of crisis and war” Norway “will rely on US and other allied military reinforcements.”
Moscow, however, views the increase of the US troops in the Nordic country as “clearly unfriendly,” saying that it “won’t remain without consequences.”
“Such actions… make Norway less predictable, and can increase tensions, cause an arms race and lead to destabilizing the situation in northern Europe,” the Russian embassy in Oslo said in a statement on Facebook.
The US reinforcement in Norway comes ahead of massive military drills meant to make troops “better prepared to counter any aggression,” which are scheduled for October-November this year.
Involving 40,000 participants, 130 aircraft and 70 vessels from more than 30 nations from NATO and its partners, the Trident Juncture 18 drills will take place in central and eastern Norway and in areas of the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic, including Iceland and the airspace of Sweden and Finland. Dismissing the idea that the exercises are aimed against any particular country, the bloc insists that the drills are only about making sure its forces “can work seamlessly together in a crisis.”
The military bloc keeps beefing up its presence in the Baltic states and eastern Europe. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, NATO has tripled its military presence on Russia’s western borders over the past five years, forcing Moscow to take retaliatory steps. Moscow has repeatedly stated that by increasing its presence on Russia’s doorstep, the alliance risks undermining regional security.
Back in December, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov warned that “the negative consequences of NATO’s military preparations should spark serious concern among all [sides], as they worsen the security situation with regard to those states whose territories are being used to deploy NATO forces and assets.”
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