Norway invites hundreds of U.S. Marines to the north
Some 300 U.S. Marines have been on six-month deployments at Værnes outside Trondheim since 2017. On Tuesday, the Norwegian Government announced both a up to five years prolongation of the Værnes six-months-at-a-time rotational deployment, but also expanding the training activities to the north.
«The defense of Norway depends on contributions from our allies in NATO, like it is for most other NATO-countries,» says Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen in a statement posted by the Ministry. He says training and exercising together in peace-time is necessary if this support should be effective in times of crises or war.
«We have to make sure NATO-soldiers from other allied countries get experience with Norwegian conditions and that Norwegian and allied soldiers learn to operate together,» Bakke-Jensen says. «That’s the reason why we want to prolong and expand today’s arrangement with the U.S. Marine Corps.»
About 330 Marines are at Værnes today. The Government says the 700 to come would “be divided between Værnes in Trøndelag and Setermoen in Inner-Troms.”
The Defense Minister says there are no objective reasons for Russia to react to such rotations with allied training.
«That we are training to defend Norway should not worry anyone, in the same way as we accept other countries training on their defense,» Minister Bakke-Jensen says and assures that a prolongation of the deal with the U.S. Marine Corps is in line with Norway policy on not having permanent foreign bases in the country.
«This is not about establishing an American base in Norway,» the Ministry underlines in the background note.
Last summer, Russia’s Oslo Embassy strongly condemned Norway’s decision to extend the presence rotational U.S. Marine Corps at Værnes Air Station. The Embassy said the move contradicted Norwegian policy of not deploying foreign military bases in the country in times of peace.
«It steps out of line of the traditions of good neighborhood, makes Norway not fully predictable partner, can also escalate tensions and lead to destabilization of the situation in the northern region,» the Embassy wrote on its Facebook page.
Setermoen military camp in Troms is about 400 kilometers from the border to Russia’s Kola Peninsula. That is, if you take a direct line through Sweden and Finland. By road, also through Finland, the distance is about 800 kilometers.