330 Marines to deploy to Norway amid tensions with Russia

330 Marines to deploy to Norway amid tensions with Russia
© Greg Nash

A rotational force of about 330 U.S. Marines will be sent to Norway in January, increasing the U.S. troop presence in Europe at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.

The move, deliberations for which were previously reported by multiple news outlets, was officially announced Monday by the Norwegian Defense Ministry.

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“The U.S. initiative to augment their training and exercises in Norway by locating a Marine Corps Rotational Force in Norway is highly welcome and will have positive implications for our already strong bilateral relationship,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said in a statement Monday.

The Marines will be stationed at the Vaernes military base in central Norway. It will be the first time a foreign military will be posted in Norway since World War II, according to Reuters.

The Marines will participate in exercises and training at the base and elsewhere in Norway, according to the Defense Ministry statement.

The deployment is being described by Norway as a trial period, and Norwegian officials will determine whether to allow it to continue beyond 2017.

Norway shares a 122-mile border with Russia in the Arctic, and the base is about 600 miles from that border.

In response to the reports that Norway was considering allowing the Marines, Russia expressed surprise at the plans.

“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," said Maxime Gourov, spokesman for the Russian embassy in Oslo, according to Agence France-Presse.

The United States has been putting renewed attention on Europe in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia, including plans for a fourfold increase in funding for the European Reassurance Initiative next year.

In addition to the newly announced Marines, the Army announced plans earlier this year to bulk up its presence by sending armored brigade combat teams to Europe next year. 

The Marines have said a presence in Norway would increase NATO’s ability to “rapidly aggregate and employ forces in Northern Europe.”