US to double number of Marines in Norway amid Russia tensions
Posted June 12, 2018 1:20 p.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2018 3:03 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The government of Norway has approved approximately 400 additional US Marines to be posted to Norway, according to the country's Ministry of Defense.
Currently there are approximately 300 US Marines in Norway for a rotational presence for training and exercise. The additional Marines would increase the number of US Marines to 700 for a period of up to five years.
The new contingent of US Marines will be located at Setermoen in Troms, according to the Defense Ministry.
In January 2017, a limited rotational force of approximately 300 Marines were sent to Vaernes amid rising tensions with Russia following the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said the Department of Defense welcomed the Norwegian announcement, saying the rotational training allows US Marines to "take part in world-class winter and mountain warfare training," which he said would "strengthen the US military's bond with the Norwegian military, and build readiness to respond in times of crisis."
"We are grateful to our Norwegian hosts for allowing us to use Vaernes as a rotational training facility," he added.
Norway shares a 122-mile border with Russia and the new location at Setermoen will bring US Marines about 250 miles from that border.
Russian officials have previously protested Norway's decision to host US Marines, with one politician saying that the move would cause Norway to be targeted by the Russian military.
The US military also uses facilities within Norwegian underground caves to "pre-position" tanks and other heavy weaponry that could be used in the event of a crisis between NATO and Russia.
"In times of crisis and war Norway will rely on US and other allied military reinforcements. This is at the core of Norwegian security policy and is further emphasized by our NATO-membership," Norwegian Minister of Defence Frank Bakke-Jensen said in a statement provided to CNN
"The United States Marine Corps and Norway have a long-standing and successful relationship that we look forward to strengthening. We will continue the dialogue with the US and the USMC, aiming for mutual agreement in the near future on the continuation of the rotational training and exercise activity," he added.
"The initiative has proven that training and conducting exercises together with allies has had a positive impact on the operational capability of our own forces."